The University of Illinois has truly ramped up its game when it comes to tailgating and pre-game entertainment over the past several years. In 2015, Illinois introduced Grange Grove, a new high-energy tailgating area adjacent to Memorial Stadium. Grange Grove provides a variety of elements for fans to make the most of their gameday experience, including a public tailgating area, live music, a family fun zone, and a beer garden. It’s made for quite a fun experience when tailgating at Illinois!
The Fighting Illini team will be good soon enough, so it’s worth it to start investing your time now in your pre-game experience at Memorial Stadium. Even though the team hasn’t won eight games in a season for the past 10? Years, there’s still an incredibly vibrant tailgate scene around campus on game days. We think this is the start of the momentum needed for the football team’s turnaround. Give it a few years, and the Fighting Illini will be back. You heard it here first!
In this guide, we will outline the key information you’ll need to have a successful and fun game day experience at Memorial Stadium.
Game tickets are readily available through the Fighting Illini Athletic site. In addition to single-game tickets, Illinois offers several package options, such as Family 4 Packs and Mini Plans to make going to a game fairly affordable.
Most of the parking lots around Memorial Stadium are pass-only lots. There are some lots available for game day purchases. These lots are Lot 44, 46, 47, 49, and the lots in the Research Park. Parking fees for these lots are $20 per automobile. Recreations vehicles/motor homes may park in Lot 33 for $40. Parking lots open at 7:00 am and will remain open until 10:00 pm except for night games where lots will stay open until one hour after the game ends. You can check out the parking map here – Illinois Parking Map.
Game Day Timeline
7:00 am – Parking lots open/Grange Grove opens
4 hours before kickoff – Food Trucks open
3 hours before kickoff – Kids Zone opens (Inflatables, Face Painting, Balloon Art and Science Experiments)
2.5 hours before kickoff – Marching Illini Drumline in Grange Grove/Illini Walk
2 hours before kickoff – Suites, 77 Club, Colonnades Club open/Marching Illini performance begins
2 hours before kickoff – Live entertainment begins
1.5 hours before kickoff – Memorial Stadium gates open/Varsity I Autograph Tent opens
½ hour before kickoff – Starting Lineups Announced
Tailgating at Illinois
Individual tailgating is allowed in ALL parking lots. Personal tailgating tents must be 10’x10’ or smaller, and you are not allowed to tailgate in any walkways or on sidewalks. Also, before you head to the stadium on game day, be sure to read over our Tailgating Check-List blog to make sure you didn’t forget anything!!
Large groups can reserve tent space in Lot 31 or Grange Grove. To be eligible for tent space, groups must purchase 50 or more game tickets. You also will be required to purchase tents, food, and beverages all through Illinois-approved vendors. If you’re interested in a tailgate service, but want a bit more flexibility, check out our Illinois page – we support groups of all sizes.
Public tailgating is also available in Grange Grove. Fans can access the space between 5 pm to 7 pm the night before the game to reserve their space and set-up their tailgate items. Space is available on a first-come, first-served basis. Grange Grove then re-opens at 7 am on game day, though note that the sections of First St. and Kirby Ave. that run next to Grange Grove are closed to traffic on game day. This makes it difficult to drop off any additional tailgating gear which means you’ll need to bring items with you from your parking location so be sure to consider bringing along a wagon to help you transport your gear. Tailgating in Grange Grove is a great time, however, do be aware that it is quite a bit more work when compared to tailgating at your vehicle or using one of the services available.
For more information on tailgating at Illinois, you can check out this info page on Grange Grove.
Tailgater Concierge’s Tailgate Service at Illinois
If you don’t have tailgating equipment or just don’t want to deal with the hassle of setting up your own tailgate, consider using Tailgater Concierge’s tailgating service. We handle all the set-up, take-down, and clean-up of your tailgate equipment and help coordinate your catering and beverage needs!
For 2021, our Tailgater Village will be set up in Grange Grove!
If you have any questions about our available services, feel free to shoot us an email at [email protected] or give us a call at 888-301-2190.
The Illini Walk
One of the most popular traditions at Illinois is the Fighting Illini Walk. The team walks through Grange Grove all their way to the stadium two and a half hours before kick-off. They are followed by the Illini Marching Band and Cheerleaders. Be sure to gather around and cheer them on!
Food & Drink Options
Fans have access to plenty of food and beverage options near Memorial Stadium. The University brings in a wide variety of food trucks that set up along First Street. This year’s food truck lineup includes Kona Ice, Cracked, and Dragon Fire Pizza. Inside Grange Grove, fans can enjoy the beer tent, which opens three hours before kickoff.
Fighting Illini Tailgate Gear
With the off-year we all had in 2020, I think everyone is in need of some refreshed tailgate gear going into the 2021 season. Here are some fun things our team found online. Quick thing – if you need some new tailgate gear, purchasing items in the Spring is typically way more affordable than waiting until late summer/fall.
When it comes to team-branded tents, we always recommend the Logo Brands NCAA line. Right now this is 25% off Amazon – a great deal! You can find it here. If you’re open to a more generic tent, see below for our link to the Best Tailgate Tents of 2021. These don’t all have team logos on them, but they’re great solid tents that will last you season after season.
If you’re in need of some chairs – these Rawlings ones get great reviews and are only $26 each.
If you’re planning to walk around Grange Grove or join a friend’s tailgate, this is a great, large cooler to carry your food & beverages in. It holds up to 24 cans! You can find it on Amazon here.
If you need some new attire, we always suggest checking out Fanatics. Here’s a link to all their Fighting Illini Items. They have attire for everyone in the family. Be sure to keep an eye on when they have sales, they’re great! They also always have deals on shipping, promotions, etc.
If you’re thinking of upgrading some of your basic equipment, be sure to check out the following blogs:
Do’s and Don’ts
When organizing your trip to Memorial Stadium – be sure to read up on the stadium policies. Here’s a comprehensive diagram of things you can and cannot bring in with you, and we linked the football game day guide below!
For more information on Illinois game day policies, check out their Football Game Day Guide.
If you have any questions regarding game day and tailgating at The University of Illinois, feel free to reach out to our team and we would be happy to assist you!
Please note: Tailgater Concierge is a participant in the Amazon Associates and Fanatics Affiliate Programs and may receive commissions on purchases. Tailgater Concierge only recommends products that would be valuable for our tailgating readership!