HOUSTON - Houston lost to the Minnesota Vikings 23 to 31 Sunday, but on the upside, for the first time in the season, Texans fans were allowed back in NRG Stadium to watch the action.
For many who typically hang out in NRG parking lots, new restrictions have required them to change their tailgating traditions. "We're doing something new called “home-gating,” says a Texans super-fan who goes by the name CJ. “Everybody is taking a different turn hosting a watch party." Not only is tailgating at NRG prohibited until further notice, but gates are only reopening for about 20 percent capacity or a little over 13,000 ticketholders.
HOUSTON, TEXAS - OCTOBER 04: Houston Texans fans show there displeasure with head coach Bill O'Brien of the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium on October 04, 2020 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
"I think it's safer because we have a small crowd and our group is actually quite large, so people only go if they feel comfortable with the homeowner,” says home-gator Emily Narin. Those who did snag seats at the stadium are finding changes like closed ATM machines and no cash accepted at gates or concession stands.
Visitors are encouraged to use the Texans mobile app for tickets and food, and everyone over the age of ten is required to wear a mask. There are no hawkers selling snacks in the stands, and social distancing is enforced in seats and lines.
HOUSTON, TEXAS - OCTOBER 04: Houston Texans fans prepare to watch against the Minnesota Vikings at NRG Stadium on October 04, 2020 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
Still searching for that game day experience, other fans are flocking to the bars that have been able to reopen as restaurants under expanded TABC guidelines.“It’s weird for me because this is actually the first game in 12 years of being the ultimate fan and not actually being in the stadium,” says Steve Beckholt.
He is taking new tailgating plans a step further by taking it on the road to benefit charity through the Pro Football’s Ultimate Fan Association.“We're doing a challenge today to raise money for both of our foundations- mine being the Marfan Foundation and David Garza from the Minnesota Vikings, he's flown in from Minnesota.”
The friendly competitors are meeting at Sportin’ Woody’s Sports Bar in Tomball and revealing who gets a prize belt for raising the most money for their causes.
Some fans say higher prices on limited seating will keep them outside the stadium, rotating homes or hot spots until the gates reopen for tailgating if it happens before the season ends.
HOUSTON, TEXAS - OCTOBER 04: Houston Texans fans not pleased with their play against the Minnesota Vikings at NRG Stadium on October 04, 2020 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
But with an 0-4 record, wherever Texans fans find themselves, they say they'll still be rooting for a win.