Urban Warrior | Tailgaters lose yardage

Posted: September 17, 2007

THE ONLY THING worse to an Eagles fan than a dropped punt that gives the other team a score is a second dropped punt that gives the other team the game.

The only thing worse for an Eagles tailgater than a 100 percent increase in parking fees is a set of new rules that make it extremely difficult to tailgate at all.

Such is the season we're in.

The Eagles have decreed that tailgaters may no longer set up tables or tents or pay to reserve the space next to their cars. If you want to tailgate, you now have to do it behind your car, standing in the parking-lot lanes where other fans are driving by. Some fun.

On top of all that, the Eagles increased the price from $11 to $20 for cars and from $20 to $40 for RVs to park in one of those lots.

The new rules, which apply to parking lots around Lincoln Financial Field owned by other companies, are designed to get drivers into the lots more quickly and to keep traffic moving, Eagles spokeswoman Bonnie Grant said.

"We recognize the tradition of tailgating," Grant said. "People have been doing it for years. It's part of the traditional game-day experience."

Longtime tailgaters responded last week to the new rules the same way Eagles fans respond when a referee blows a call.

I can't write it here. But it rhymes with "fullspit."

Craig "Quimby" Chenosky of The Green Legion, a group of tailgaters, decided to move his home-game tailgate party inside McFadden's at Citizen's Bank Park because of the new rules. He suspects the Eagles are trying to ruin outside tailgating to push fans inside the stadium, where the team makes money selling food and drinks.

"Anybody who thinks it won't take away from the tailgating experience is just saying that to pacify people like me who are going to be upset," Chenosky said. "The bottom line is they're taking away something that brings us all together."

Keith "Mongo" Czaban of Phillytailgate.com remembers a similar effort by the Eagles a few years ago that was enforced only briefly. He wonders if the Eagles are now trying to get people to pay for the team's pre-game tailgate package, held each home game inside the stadium.

If you search for the word tailgate on the Eagles Web site, the only reference that comes up is the team's "Ultimate Tailgate Package," which costs $285. Even if you have that kind of green, the package is sold out this season.

"I think they want to push people into the stadium earlier," Czaban said. "They want to push people onto the waiting list for the tailgate package."

Grant insists the Eagles are focused on getting fans efficiently out of their cars and into the stadium, not on the money those fans will spend inside the stadium. She said the new policy is a "collective effort" by the team and Comcast-Spectacor, which owns the lots around the Wachovia Center.

"We love the fans to tailgate," Grant said. "It's a challenge in the parking."

John Page, chief operating officer for Global Spectrum, which includes the parking lots at the Wachovia Center and Spectrum, describes the new tailgate policy as an "Eagles initiative" driven in part by the loss of about 1,000 parking spots at the former Naval Yard.

"Obviously, tailgating is a huge part of the NFL experience," Page said. "We recognize that. We support it."

Eagles fans remain unconvinced and suspicious of the new policy. Mike Young of onecrazyfan.com wonders about the team's financial motive.

"These are blue-collar workers for the most part," Young said of the fans. "Are you going to spend $20 for a case of beer for your friends or $20 for two beers in the stadium? Plus the lines are going to be ridiculous."

Young takes particular offense because he has worked with the Eagles on charity projects.

Last month, he and 11 other tailgaters with team-inspired rides - Young parties from a converted ambulance called the Tailgate Rescue Squad - set up at the 13th annual Eagles Carnival in a show the team called "the most outrageous tailgate vehicles."

"Why promote something you're going to be taking down?" Young wondered last week. *

E-mail urbanwarrior@phillynews.com or call the Urban Warrior tip line at 215-854-4810. For past columns:

http://go.philly.com/columnists.

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