#10 of 31: Reliant Stadium, Houston, Texas

January 7, 2012


Congratulations to the Texans and their great, fun-loving 12th Man

Reliant Stadium, Houston, Texas

Peg makes her way into the stadium offices to be rejected.

When the Houston Texans got into the play-offs, we realized we could fit another stadium into our season. Yep, we were doing our happy little tailgating dance as we drove south. We were looking forward to celebrating and photographing the Houston tailgaters at their first ever play-off game.

It was without any thought to the idea that there could be a problem tailgating in Houston that we set off New Year’s Day.

Reliant Stadium, Houston, TexasLittle did we know...

While Bernie drove, I got on the Texans’ website to do our usual check of parking, pricing, RV regulations, etc. and sent off an email to "guest services" inquiring about parking for our camper or where the public off-site paid parking might be found. Included in the email was an explanation of what we do and a link to the our website with the picture galleries we post for the fans each time to download freely and use as they wish.

This is the unhelpful canned reply we got back the next afternoon:

Unfortunately there is no cash parking on Reliant Park property on a Houston Texans gameday. Prepaid parking passes may be purchased at Ticketmaster.com based on availability.

There was also a suggestion to visit the METRORAIL site. The note failed to mention (which we later learned) that to even walk into the lots we would need to purchase a tailgating ticket.

Well perhaps we were too optimistic for Texas, since last year we were sooo welcomed by the Atlanta Falcons Office, just two days before the game, for their play-off event, told where to park overnight and where the best tailgating lots were located. We figured that Reliant Stadium would be the same helpful and welcoming environment. Not so much! Normally, a day or two before the game, we enter the stadium area and find a security guard to ask where and what we need to do to park and photograph the tailgating. Before arriving, we have already checked the website to gather as much information as possible. Most of the NFL team websites show where RV parking is on their maps, but we check it all out in person as well.

PHOTO GALLERY: Texans Tailgating – Locked Out!



Two days before the game we walked to the stadium for our pre-game location recon. We walked past a couple of the lots surrounded by eight foot high chain link fencing with the cut raw edges above the cross bars or with the fencing curving out another 18" to prevent anyone from climbing in. (Where other stadiums actually do have fencing it is usually only about 3-4 feet high.) The guard at the Budweiser Plaza entrance told us to go upstairs and talk to "them."

High, raw-cut fence and Sheriff's deputies watching traffic.

...and so we did...

The receptionist was charming and when asked why there is so much more security at this stadium in hushed tones she informed us that, "The LEAGUE made us do it, (pause) since 9/11." (What, only for the Texans ???) She made a phone call and suggested we have a seat to wait for someone to come and talk to us. While we waited she asked us about how it was at other stadiums and we explained that the other stadiums were much more open and seemed to encourage the meaning of team and fandom as part of the larger city-wide event that it is. After a 55 minute wait, a thoughtful and sincere younger man came out to try and help to us. After explaining our project of visiting all 31 stadiums and photographing and sharing the experience with fans and non fans alike, he said he wold see what he could do. He also explained that there were a couple of thousand tailgating passes sold for the game, but that they were gone... we were too late. We were also told that there were no private paid lots near the stadium. (In fact as we walked to the stadium on game day we saw quite a few.) Everyone so very, very nice, but so not a bit helpful.

This is what we learned on line about the tailgating passes:

The 2010 policy does not allow persons to tailgate at Reliant stadium if they do not (a) have a gameday ticket, or (b) have not purchased a $10 tailgate pass*.

*These $10 passes are only available to season ticket holders.

The team rep’s reply came the next day.

Sadly I was not able to get y’all credentials for the game tomorrow. I really appreciate you taking the time to come over yesterday. I wish I had better news for you. Hope we can take care of you another time though.

A Lot Watcher

We were pretty discouraged, but appreciated his attention and follow-through knowing how busy he must be with his team’s first play-off game.

In the few days before the game, we asked people around the city why the intense control and security around the stadium and no un-ticketed fans allowed. These are some of the answers we received.

Probably the owners want to charge for everything so they can make more money 

After 9/11, The League rules say they must have this security

There was a big fight at a Dallas game a few years ago, so they don’t want to let anybody in (Once again the actions of a very few hurt 1000s +. The only videos I saw or read about were of Texans’ fans only fighting... and just a very few at that)

Because all the sports in Houston are like that

The neighborhood around the stadium is dangerous

Well, people were coming to tailgate who were not going to the game.

People could go to a bar... (Let them eat cake.)

It’s Texas (Corral? Stockyard?)

On game-day, the television coverage of the pre-game activities was somewhat contradictory. At the same time broadcasters were announcing the line-up and traffic restrictions, what time the lots opened - 11:30 AM and the myriad of entry restrictions and paid pass requirements, they were interviewing people who said they had been in the lots since 6:30 setting-up and cooking for their tailgating party.

We set out at 11:00 to cover what we could before the 3:30 game, grousing about the madness of closing people out from a chance to join the rest of the city’s ticket holding fans in celebrating their city’s team’s good fortune in a way they could afford. Our plan was to photograph what we could through the high fences around each lot. It was going to be what it was going to be.

PHOTO GALLERY: Texans Tailgating - Inside After All



But surprise, surprise: Apparently we do not appear to be wild eyed and crazy, gate crashing, rabble-rousing, fight starting drunks... At one point we just strolled through the security gates with all our photography gear and started to take pictures and enjoy the fans as we normally do. We never had to say a word entering, although we smiled, made good eye contact and slowed for "whatever."

Given that we were told we couldn't join the tailgaters in the lots, we figured we would have to raise the camera on a large monopod over the fence (left) or just photograph through the fence (right).

Of course, once inside, it seemed like there were miles of delighted fans eager to tell their own joyous stories about tailgating and show off their good food and fabulous grills and decor. These fans love their team and the return of football to Houston. They were ecstatic to have made the play-offs for the first time.

We can only imagine the joy they had at beating the Bengals and going on to the Divisional Play-offs in Baltimore.

PHOTO GALLERY: Texans Tailgating - Inside After All 2



One of the best groups we chatted with had originally been seated near each other inside the stadium. So much did they enjoy one another, that they decided to start tailgating together before the games. The group continues to grow as years go by with the addition of children and new friends.

We have seen that a football team can bring a city together in a way that very few other activities can. It seems to me and the fans we talked to that the Houston, Texans Football Team should be a team for all the people of Houston. At every other NFL stadium we have visited, fans who can not obtain tickets or afford to attend the game are welcome to enjoy the game day festivities in the lots surrounding the stadium. Most stadiums do not have such rigidly confined and crowded lots with high fencing and very limited entry points. I am concerned that if something "dangerous" actually ever did erupt, people would have no way to get out.

Texans Fans: We loved meeting you, and would very much like to know your thinking about "Fort" Reliant Stadium and whether it should share its wealth with the city’s fans as a whole.

Final: Texans 31, Bengals 10


Sounds like security gave you a difficult time. Bummer! You should have let me handle it. :)

Marty (Security KC Chiefs)

Disturbed by alot of your comments. I can say this...I dont care what other stadiums do...but it is NOT our owners responsibility to throw a party for the city / state....just his customers which are the ticket holder or tailgate ticket holder. Houston has by far the best Tailgating in the U.S....and I have been to other stadiums.Houston is the 4th largest city in the U.S. you just cant have open gates...they did before the Dallas game and it took people HOURS to get in...it was awfull. Glad for the rule changes....sounds like yall need to do more homework before youi head across the U.S.


The big game in Baltimore this week-end is most exciting ----  all over the Balto. radio stations and news that schools today (Friday) had students in purple and areas such as Harbour Place are painted all in purple.  Is this a cool area or what ?

-Anne (Bernie's mom)

You did such a great job! And your absolutely right the stadiums restrictions are ridiculous!! Im so glad you guys were able to make it in and eventually enjoy some of the fans energy. We loved having you there and capturing great moments, we hope to see you soon!! We have playoff games to go and maybe even the superbowl!!


Your account sounds worse than an inside the Beltway bureaucracy saga.  Maybe it is a Bush legacy. 

I was at the Elizabeth management office today and an electrician from Baltimore told us to definitely root for the Broncos this weekend. According to him, if Denver wins, the next two games will be in Baltimore.  True?


Carol just bought a new Ravens shirt for the Sunday game. She is an avid fan so get exposed to it without really trying.

It can't be a sport if there isn't motor :>)

Cheers, Don

Sounds like you had quite the experience. I attended a Rutgers Bowl game there a few years back. I remeber it as a really nice stadium. Parking and tailgating at the new Jets stadium is a fiasco...even for season ticket holder WITH parking passes...FYI


Hi Sara!! We tailgated with the Giants fans at the New Meadowlands Stadium in December of 2010. The experience could not have been better or more organized.  We contacted the Big Blue Tailgaters and John Bakalarczyk gave us the skinny on how to do everything. Just a great and fun experience.

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