For Oakland Raiders tailgaters, when venturing to O.co Coliseum, the early bird gets the parking space.
For games beginning before 6 p.m., the line starts forming at 6 a.m. for all Coliseum lots and gates. For day games, the lots fill up by about 9:30 a.m. If kickoff comes after 6 p.m., the line begins forming at 11 a.m. If you don’t get to the stadium by noon, you may be out of luck. The parking gates at the Coliseum open five hours before kickoff.
Be sure to leave plenty of time to shut down your tailgating operation. Why? The Raiders now recommend that fans arrive two hours early to allow extra time for security personnel to wave a hand-held metal detector over each person and to search bags. The new security procedures were put in place for the 2012 season.
Arriving early to get screened can be a hassle, but it can also pay off. Raiders game attendees with tickets scanned at least an hour before kickoff become eligible to win prizes like field passes, locker room tours, autographed memorabilia, Raiders merchandise and gift cards.
Keep in mind that the stadium gates open two hours before kickoff. Fans holding club or suite tickets can enter an hour earlier.
All right, now that you’ve got the 411 on the timing of your tailgating, here are the best ways to leave the Coliseum – and to spend as little time in traffic as possible.
Heading toward Livermore
Go southeast on Coliseum Way. Turn right onto 66th Avenue. Jump on the Interstate 880 South ramp to San Jose. Take Exit 31 for Interstate 238 toward Interstate 580 (Stockton/Fresno). Follow signs for I-238/I-880 (Castro Valley/Stockton/Fresno) and merge onto I-238 South. Then merge onto I-580 East.
Heading toward Emeryville
Go northwest on Coliseum Way. Jump on the I-880 North ramp on the left. Merge onto I-880 North and then take a slight right onto Interstate 980 East (Walnut Creek). Take the exit toward San Francisco and then merge onto I-580 West.
Heading toward the Peninsula
Go northwest on Coliseum Way, staying left at the fork. Turn left onto 66th Avenue. Jump on the I-880 South ramp to San Jose and then merge onto I-880 South. Take Exit 27 for State Route 92 (San Mateo Bridge/Jackson Street). Merge onto 92 West.
Heading toward San Francisco
Go northwest on Coliseum Way. Jump on the I-880 North ramp on the left and then merge onto I-880 North. Keep left at the fork, following signs for I-80 West (San Francisco).
Heading toward San Jose
Go northwest on Coliseum Way and keep left at the fork. Turn left onto 66th Avenue. Take a slight right onto the I-880 South ramp (San Jose) and then merge onto I-880 South.
Check out Tailgate Fan to keep the party going at tailgatefan.cbslocal.com.
John Egan is a freelance writer covering all things San Francisco. His work can be found on Examiner.com.