While the majority of football fans throughout the country have their pre-game get-togethers in stadium parking lots, a select few places are perfect for taking family and friends to the game in style on your boat.
Neyland Stadium, Knoxville Tennessee
Starting as early as Tuesdays before a Saturday game, the boats of the Vol Navy start docking on the bank of the Tennessee River, within a short walk to Neyland Stadium on the campus of the University of Tennessee®
in Knoxville. By gameday, hundreds of boats are docked here and cooperation is the key to accommodating all comers. No reservations are required to dock here and it’s on a first-come, first-service basis. Because of the volume of boats and limited dock space, boats tie off to each other, and often more than 15 are in each raft-up with the transoms lined up so those on the outside can easily walk to shore when it’s time for the game. If you’ve never been to a UT®
football game, be prepared for a spectacle; the stadium holds close to 100,000 fans (short for fanatic).
Tips for Attending
- Don’t expect to leave early unless your boat is on the outside of a docking stack.
- Big boats should arrive early so they can form the “anchor” by tying offto the dock first with progressively smaller boats being tied up later.
- When arriving, try to find a boat that’s a similar size to tie up to.
- Be courteous and helpful to those pulling up to tie off.
- Use plenty of fenders.
TIAA Field® Jacksonville, Florida
Residing in the shadow of TIAA Field®
, formerly known as the Gator Bowl, is Metropolitan Park Marina, which has 78 spacious, well-maintained floating docks for boats up to 80 feet long and a few outside docks for larger vessels on the St. Johns River. Home to the NFL’s®
, TIAA Field®
also hosts the annual Florida/Georgia football game, which is the premier regular-season social event/football game of the year, drawing huge crowds that arrive early and stay late. Slips run from $30-70 for larger boats but there are 25 raft-up spots for boats 25 feet or less for $20.
Tips for Attending
- Make your reservations early for football game weekends by contacting the marina harbormaster at (904) 255-6908, or e-mail at email@example.com. The rest of the year no reservations are needed and it’s first-come, first-serve.
- If your game’s dates aren’t available, you can be placed on standby if you call Jim Suber, the harbormaster and pre-register your boat.
- No open flames are allowed on the boats or docks but barbeques can be set up on the adjacent bulkhead and park.
- Boats are permitted to stay for 72 hours so a football weekend can also be a mini-vacation.
- Electric is available for $9 a day and water is free.
Husky Stadium, Seattle, Washington
It doesn’t get any easier to attend a football game by water than at the University of Washington’s®
Husky Stadium. Although there are 20 slips right by the stadium, they’re harder to get than an Augusta National®
membership. There’s also a small cove near the stadium that can accommodate 150 boats but requires a mooring permit. Most people just drop anchor in Union Bay off Lake Washington and flag down a shuttle boat when it’s time for the game. Between these transient boaters and the ferry services, nearly 3,500 people reach the stadium by boat. With a view of the Cascade Mountains in the distance and its proximity to the water, this stadium ranks as one of the most scenic in the country.
Tips For Attending:
- Make sure to start heading for the stadium at least an hour before the game starts as the shuttle gets very busy. The ride to the stadium is free, the return trip costs $10 per person.
- The shuttle stops running an hour after the game so don’t dawdle.
- Check the weather forecast and dress accordingly, it can be damp and chilly.
- Instead of the usual hot dogs and hamburgers for the pre-game meal, make a stop at the world-famous Pike Place Fish Market® and have them toss a whole wild-caught salmon in your direction https://www.pikeplacefish.com/about.
McLane Stadium, Waco, Texas
If getting close to the action is your goal, you can’t beat the home of the Baylor®
Bears that sits on the banks of the Brazos River that meanders through the campus. Their boating fans are collectively called The Bearmada and they gather in a small lagoon right at McLane Stadium®
. If you show up early, you can tie up to the seawall. If you are a little late, ask nicely and you may be able to raft up to a docked boat. Or, if you want to stay unencumbered, drop anchor right in the lagoon. One of the highlights of gameday is the team’s parade into the stadium via the walkway over the Brazos River.
Tips for Attending
Soldier Field®, Chicago, Illinois
- Texas, even in the fall, can get blazing hot. Don’t forget to slather on the sunscreen and stay hydrated.
- Brazos Park East Boat ramp is the closest to the stadium and is only a mile away.
- Several concessions rent paddle boards to help boaters explore the lagoon.
- The no-wake zone adjacent to the stadium is strictly enforced.
- Stop at Helberg BBQ and grab some brisket and racks of ribs.
The Chicago Bears®
have been playing at Soldier Field®
since 1924, making it the oldest NFL®
stadium by 33 years. Its Greek Revival architecture is visually stunning and its proximity to Lake Michigan makes it a bucket list must for boaters who love football. Adding to the spectacle is the Caribbean blue water, courtesy of the Zebra and quagga mussel invasions, which have changed the lake’s look and biology. Burnham Harbor sits within a short walk to the stadium and has 1,126 slips in all. The marina closes on October 31, so plan any visits for the early part of the season.
Tips for Attending
- Transient slips can be arranged via the Dockwa® website and app starting May 1.
- There’s a three-lane boat ramp at the Burnham Harbor Marina with parking for 43 vehicles with trailers.
- There are two marinas north and south of the stadium that also have transient docking.
- Stop off at Kurowski’s Sausage Market and get Polish sausages for the grill.