In the wake of one of the hottest Redskins home games in recent memory, I thought I’d start a new series designed to educate and share ideas and experiences at Fed Ex (and possibly other stadiums) so that we can all be better prepared to tailgate and enjoy the game in style.
I’ll start with some basics. Parking lots open 4 hours before game time (9am this sunday) and the stadium opens 2 hours before game time (or 11am). Expect a long line to get past security at the entrance, and they WILL pat you down and confiscate any booze they find. They also limit what other items you can bring in. Basically they don’t want you bringing anything that they can sell to you for an inflated price (go figure), and they also don’t want you to bring anything dangerous, anything that takes up too much space, or anything that allows you to easily smuggle contraband into the stadium. You can see the full list of banned items here. The entrance lines get exponentially longer the closer to kickoff you get, so if you’re cutting it close, consider yourself warned. Once you go into the stadium, you can’t go out again (or to be more accurate, if you go out, they won’t let you in again).
Prices are steep, but that’s to be expected. $5 for a water or a soda, $6 for a slightly larger soda in a plastic cup that you can take home with you. Hotdogs and burgers and chicken for $6 and up. I’d be outraged except that it seems to be an accepted business model of the NFL these days. Ah well.
As for the seats themselves, I’ve personally experienced Luxury Boxes (once), Club Seating (years and years), and the Lower Level experience (a half dozen times). I haven’t done nosebleed upper level tickets, so if anyone wants to write in to tell us what it’s like up there (I know, I know, “everything looks tiny”) I’d love to hear about it.
If you’ve got club level seats, expect to wait in a second massive line as they screen you to go up the escalators. For a few years, they had some really foolish system of guiding people through a byzantine maze of metal bars so that you had to go single file to get to the escalator check point. The problem with this was that security would check people faster than they would walk in single file, so there would be large gaps and the line was reduced to a slow trickle. Fortunately they seemed to do away with this policy about a year ago, and it’s since gotten better. Club level has several advantages:
- Air conditioning. Normally I wouldn’t care, because I spend all my time outside anyway; but last week, I sure missed it.
- Comfy seats. I don’t mean the plastic seats you sit on to watch the game. While you do get a cup holder, a menu, and slightly more leg room, I still wouldn’t use the word “comfortable.” However, the inside seats are fancy leather and quite comfortable. Of course, I rarely actually use them unless I arrive really early.
- Did I mention that each club level seat gets its own cup holder? Talk about classy! No setting his cup on the ground for Club-level Redskins Guy!
- Occasionally you can see a Fed Ex worker come by and they can take an order for food for you. I’ve never actually done this, but I suppose it’s nice in that you don’t have to miss any action in order to spend more money. They’ll come and take your money right at your seats!
- Really, REALLY long lines at very tiny bathrooms.
- The View. Even though it’s further away from the action than the lower level, you could argue that it gives you a better overall view of the field. I’m not sure I buy this, but you could argue it.
Lower level seats are stripped down, no-frills seats that get you right up close to the action. There’s no air conditioning. There’s nobody who comes into the stands to sell stuff except the beer guy. Which really, is the way football is meant to be viewed. There’s also no place to sit down AT ALL except in your seat, which is a little tedious, because the seat you get is approximately the size of a paper napkin that’s folded in half. I don’t just mean that they’re tiny in the sense that hefty people will have problems (though that’s certainly true); my knees literally have to be wedged up against the back of the seats in front of me at an angle if I’m to fit at all because my legs are simply too long for the space provided. I end up with bruises by the end of the game. Then again, I’m 6’5″ so I’m not certain how common this problem is. Some of the features of lower level seats are…
- In your face. This is as close as it gets. You get to see everything up live and personal. Pretty awesome stuff to be within a spitball’s distance of your favorite football players.
- Players might have a chance to actually hear stuff you shout. They probably won’t, but at least it’s remotely possible.
- 90% of the camera shots that make it to television are from the lower level, if you care about that sort of thing. Bring a fancy banner if you like!
- The bathrooms are much larger and, in my experience the lines are much faster in the lower level.
- Less hassle. Generally there should be less of a trek to get to your seats, and less security than any other section.
Luxury Box seats
The ultimate in rich fancy schmoozing. It was really a thrill to get to do this once, but I’m not sure it’s a better *fan* experience. It’s a little depressing because it seems like these amazing, magical seats are often wasted on people who couldn’t care less about the game of football or the Redskins. When we were there, we were surrounded by business suits and bored looking kids and we were quite out of place shouting and screaming at the top of our lungs. They tolerated us with practiced indifference, however, and we had a blast, so I can’t complain too much.
Luxury box seats feature…
- The ultimate in comfort. Leather, cushy seats that are actually comfortable. Windows that open or close so that you can be in a climate controlled environment or expose yourself to the outdoors if the weather permits.
- 2 television sets so you can tune in to two separate football games in addition to the one at the stadium. This was a big plus for me. We stayed through the 4pm games, watching and drinking after everyone else had left.
- Free food, drink, and booze. Well, I guess it’s not free in that somebody had to pay for it. But it wasn’t me, so I was happy. They told us we could take leftovers home if we wanted to.
- Your own personal waiter. While Club level gets you an occasional waitress, Luxury boxes are each assigned a personal manservant. Ours was named “Dave” (no, it wasn’t DW). If for some reason the stocked bar didn’t have something we wanted, he would go and find it for us. It didn’t matter if we wanted fresh squeezed yak’s balls from the Mediterranean…he’d find a way to make it happen. Dave was incredible.
- The shrimp cooker had it’s own Redskins seal on it. They actually build shrimp cookers with engraved logos of the Redskins. I don’t know why, but that always blows me away. It’s not like a t-shirt or something; there isn’t going to be some huge demand for shrimp cookers in the public market. This puppy was specially made for the luxury seats. How cool is that?
- Cloth napkins with the Redskins logo on it. I think I still have some of them lying around; they make great souvenirs and we were actually allowed to take them (though I did fell like that guy at a hotel who takes all the little shampoos).
So…now that you’ve got some of the basics, let’s get down to this weekend. Last weekend was HOT. Fortunately, the current weather projections say it’ll be clear with a high of 74, which sounds just about perfect. This will be our last home game until October 12th, so it might very well be our best chance for great weather. Enjoy it while you can!
Our opponent, the Cardinals, is not exactly a team that travels well. We won’t have to worry so much about large numbers of irate fans talking smack (Can you imagine a Cardinals fan talking smack? For that matter, can you imagine a Cardinals fan? Do they even exist?) We also have owned Kurt Warner no matter which team he’s played on, so our chances seem pretty good on paper. The Cards seem strong this year. They haven’t been 3-0 to start a season in decades, so let’s not break that streak, huh?
Overall, this home game seems like a must for all those with tickets. I’d encourage everyone to go to ALL games of course, but it will be perfect football weather, we’re playing a team we can beat, and we have every reason to think it will be a great time. If you’re not going this weekend, why the hell did you buy those tickets in the first place?
Finally, in closing, I’d like to touch upon the new NFL Fan Code of Conduct Policy. I had a lot of questions going into this season. The verbage of the policy was such that they could potentially make life very unpleasant for fans who enjoy a beer and some friendly banter, so I was a little worried. My fears, thus far, were unfounded. As far as I could tell, security didn’t seem to react any differently than in years past. We were jawing with some Saints fans and getting into it. Reasonably friendly stuff, but still, it was nice to know that nobody bothered us for enjoying the game. Let the players play and let the fans enjoy it. As long as they do that, I’m happy.