Some folks, especially those in large groups who arrive in caravans, have mastered the art of backing their cars around so the back faces the lane. The attendants aren't really fond of this practice, because it slows traffic. Nor will be your neighbors for the day who aren't part of your group. If you must flip your car around, wait a little bit until the attendants are a good distance away. Then, a quick "Hey, do you mind if I ... " to your neighbors doesn't hurt before executing the maneuver.
TIP: There are several "unofficial" lots on Silver Lane north and east of the stadium. The best of these is the Pratt & Whitney Aircraft Club across the street. A large complex of sports fields for the benefit of Pratt employees, it's an underrated place to tailgate. There's lots of room and rules, especially the much-celebrated and inconsistently enforced "no ball throwing" rule in the "official" Rentschler lots, are less stringent. Plus, getting out is much easier than leaving the official lots. The standard cost for most of these unofficial lots is $10.
TIP TWO: If you're in a large group, carpooling is a good idea, saving on the cost of parking with the side benefit of needing fewer designated drivers and making it easier to round everyone up. Take advantage of the commuter lots located along I-84 and I-91 as staging points for your crew. One such such spot is the commuter lot in Manchester off Spencer Street near I-384, where unsanctioned tailgating occurs.
Once You're ParkedThe Rentschler parking lot atmosphere is a diverse mix. With UConn's short tenure in big-time football, fans have borrowed from experiences at NFL games and other college venues. It ranges from the large groups with tents, flags and large grills and tables of food to families with young children to older fans eating quietly inside their cars.
The unofficial rules are simple: Drink, eat, be merry and get ready for the battle at hand. If you bring a grill, make sure it's propane-fired (charcoal-fired grills are a no-no). You can bring as much beer/booze as you like, as long as it's not in a keg. At Rentschler, you'll see everything from all-out grilling to folks with small coolers with beverages, sandwiches and crackers and chips and dip.
TIP: Be aware and considerate of your neighbors. Try not to invade others' personal space (not a big deal in SEC country, but remember, you're north of the Mason-Dixon line). A lot of folks like a raucous pregame atmosphere, but not everyone. If you have kids and hear or see something out of line, a way to defuse the situation is a quick "kids here!" shout-out. Most people get the point. If not, there is enough security around if you feel the need to bring in the heat.
Even loud music may get a hairy eyeball. But that comes from the same mind-set that doesn't understand why folks stand up for the kickoff or on defensive third downs. Those folks who don't like noise of any kind need to understand they're going to a football game, not a tennis match.
TIP TWO: Unlike many college stadiums, beer is sold at Rentschler, although it's not cheap. It starts at $5 and change for draft and $8-$9 for bottled beer. So if you need beer to keep functioning (we won't be judgmental here) there's no need to chug, there's plenty in the stadium. And sloppy drunk is never cool, especially if you're just settling into your seat.
TIP THREE: It's likely to be hot for UConn's two home September games, especially the opener Sept. 12 against North Carolina. The home opener traditionally is a busy time for paramedics/EMTs tending to those who have overindulged, especially college freshmen away from home for the first time. Lots of beer (and other beverages) combined with 90 degree heat is not a good mix.
When To Break Down The TailgateBy rule, no tailgating is allowed after kickoff. But jeez, it just seems wrong not be in your seat by kickoff (if not the national anthem or the Huskies coming out of the tunnel). For the noon kickoffs, 11:45 seems like the latest to start making your move. Good form is to clean your area before locking the car and heading to the game. And think green: there are receptacles for cans and bottles liberally scattered around Rentschler Field. If you can't make the effort to toss 'em out before leaving, you can leave your recyclables piled neatly near by your car. There's a good chance they'll be collected by ecologically or financially motivated good Samaritans. But if they're still there after game, give a hoot, don't pollute.
PostgameExiting Rentschler from the official lots can be more difficult than entering, especially after close games when the majority of UConn fans defy their reputation and actually stay until the end. (In fact, some choose to leave close games early to beat the traffic, which begs a question I've wanted to ask since moving here 20-plus years ago: What are you rushing to get to? This is Connecticut, not Las Vegas.).
Getting to the roads that lead off the Rentschler property can be frustrating. It's pretty much every driver for themselves (note to Rentschler poobahs: it would help if the parking lot attendants guided folks out to the main roads with the same vigor they direct them in; it would prevent some of the parking lot rage that occasionally flares).
The noon starts this year mean more of an opportunity for postgame tailgating, which is permitted for two hours after the game (officially, there's no tailgating after night games, but it's not enforced until the traffic has thinned out).
Saturday at 3:30 p.m is no time to be in a traffic jam (unless family stuff or work calls). It's a great time to relax, re-open the cooler and turn on the radio for the post-mortem or use your Blackberry or laptop to check out The Courant's coverage at courant.com/sports.