TIAA Bank Field – Gator Bowl
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Full Schedule of Fun at the Gator Bowl
The Taxslayer Gator Bowl has moved to a new date, revived its old name, and added a ton of fun events to the schedule to create a wonderful post-season atmosphere for college football.
Played on January 1st for most of the past 25 years, the Gator Bowl has been played on the last 2 days of December starting in 2016, but is now slated to be played on New Year’s Eve going forward. Also, for most of its history the game was called the Gator Bowl, but lost that moniker when Taxslayer became the sponsor in 2015. But now the Gator Bowl name has been restored, and the staff is working hard to make this game one of the premiere bowls in college football.
Food & Beverage 3
Like any college football game played in a pro venue, you will find a wide variety of concessions options at TIAA Bank Field, but these items will come at the high prices which have become standard for pro sports venues. Also, some of the stands that are usually open during a Jaguars game here are not open during the Gator Bowl, due to the smaller crowd and the upper deck subsequently being closed off.
TIAA Bank Field’s concessions prices are among the highest in the NFL, with foot-long chili cheese dogs, BBQ skewers, pizza slices, chicken tenders, burgers, and BBQ sandwiches all coming in at $10 or more, with smaller items such as regular hot dogs and popcorn costing $5 and $7 respectively.
Drinks start at $4 for bottled water, $5 for bottled soda and Gatorade, $9 for a refillable souvenir soda, and $10 and up for bottled beer; there are also other alcoholic selections available such as wine and cocktails at a similar cost.
TIAA Bank Field is a great venue for football with lots of modern touches and amenities – all of the seats are chair backs, but the most notable feature is of course the two swimming pools, which are closed off during the Gator Bowl, but can be rented out during Jaguars games for your party of 15 or more (see the Jaguars ticketing website for details).
The best part of the Gator Bowl, however, is the full slate of activities fans can participate in. For starters fans can join the Vystar New Year’s Eve Run, which benefits local charities in the Jacksonville area, and after that fans can attend Happy Hour at the Taxslayer Tailgate Party, and/or attend one of the fan fests hosted by the participating teams. There are also fireworks before and during the game, and then following the game and the trophy presentations, fans are treated to a concert (most recently featuring Cole Swindell) and another round of fireworks to ring in the new year. The postgame concert and fireworks are free with your game ticket, so fans get a great bargain by attending this great bowl game.
The neighborhood around TIAA Bank Field includes several other sporting facilities – the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville, home of the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp, is essentially in the parking lot of TIAA Bank Field, and Jacksonville Veteran’s Memorial Arena, home of both the Jacksonville Sharks and the Jacksonville Icemen, is across the street. On the plus side this means there is a ton of parking available, but it also means there aren’t as many restaurants within walking distance.
On the plus side there are a ton of restaurant options in Jacksonville, especially the great seafood you can find at eateries all around the area. The Jacksonville Beach area is also not far away, so fans can easily take a stroll along the Atlantic. There are hotels in every price range, depending on how close (or far) you want to be from TIAA Bank Field.
The fans at a college football bowl game are a little hit and miss – it largely depends on what teams are participating and how close they are to Jacksonville. However, the Gator Bowl does have both teams coming from Power 5 conferences, meaning a bigger draw of fans, and usually at least one of the participating teams is ranked; in fact, over half of all Gator Bowls have featured 2 ranked teams. Under the current arrangement, the Gator Bowl will feature an SEC team versus a Big Ten or ACC team (alternating 3 from each conference over a 6-year period).
The upper deck at TIAA Bank Field is closed off during the Gator Bowl, and the lower deck has a lot of empty seats, so the venue will get nowhere near its ~67K capacity. But the two sets of fans in attendance are very loud, and most wear team gear, so you will get a great visual of two different blocks of color as you look across from sideline to sideline.
Jacksonville is the largest city in the US in terms of surface area, so even if you are staying in Jacksonville, it could take at least 20 minutes to get from your hotel to the stadium depending on which part of the city you are coming from. On the plus side, however, there is plenty of parking around TIAA Bank Field, most of which is in sanctioned lots or in city/hotel parking garages, so you won’t have any trouble finding space nearby. Furthermore, there are plenty of entrances around the venue, so it will be easy to get in and out once you arrive.
Due to the smaller crowd size than normal, once you are inside the facility there won’t be any issue with lines at the concessions or restrooms either, as there are plenty of both to accommodate the number of fans in attendance.
Return on Investment 5
Tickets to the Gator Bowl start at only $30, and the upper deck is closed off too which means the “cheap” seats are still very close to the field. Given the free concert and fireworks following the game, this ticket price represents a great return on investment even if you have a large group. In addition, there are some lower-priced items at the concessions, so if you are careful you can do okay there as well.
The pregame and postgame activities at the Gator Bowl give fans a lot of options for enjoying themselves besides the game itself. But in addition, all fans in attendance receive a gift bag (taped to the back of each seat) which includes a foam finger and noisemaker, as well as samples and coupons from sponsors such as BC/Goody’s and Axe. The Taxslayer Bowl also has its own mascot, the Taxslayer Knight, which can be seen in the end zones throughout the game celebrating when either team makes a score, so neither side feels left out.
If you can only make it to one bowl game during the college football postseason, the Gator Bowl in Jacksonville is a great one to choose. Ticket prices are on the low end, the weather in Jacksonville is great, and there are a ton of extra activities you can participate in to make your trip all that much more enjoyable. Make plans to attend the Gator Bowl in Jax!
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