If you were lucky enough to score tickets to the sold out FC Series exhibition between Chelsea F.C. and Wrexham A.F.C., or if you plan to mix it up with the crowds before the game, we’ve got the tailgate guide for you.
Chelsea and Wrexham face off Wednesday at UNC’s Kenan Memorial Stadium. Fans from around the world are expected in attendance. Many will come to support Premier League powerhouse Chelsea, while others curious to see Wrexham, which has amassed a major following because of the FX series “Welcome to Wrexham,” will get their first chance to see the Welsh side in person.
Earlier in June, The Soccer Tournament, a 7-on-7 knockout tournament featuring sides from around the world competing for a $1 million purse, took place at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, home of the NC Courage, North Carolina’s NWSL team. Under the new law that legalizes sports betting in North Carolina, WakeMed Soccer Park has also been authorized to become one of eight sporting venues in the state to open a retail sportsbook on site.
This week’s match will bring a second wave of top international soccer to the Triangle, and NCSharp has compiled some important tailgating information for people making the trip to the match.
When does tailgating start for the Chelsea-Wrexham game?
Molly Pendleton, a UNC grad and one of the event planners for the match, gave a general timeline for tailgating to WRAL.
“Everything opens about 5:30,” Pendleton said, “so about a couple of hours before the game kicks off. We do encourage everyone to buy parking.”
Parking tickets are on sale through the Carolina athletics website and should be purchased in advance. Lots on UNC’s campus and other affiliated areas are open for parking. Prices range from $5 for a park-and-ride pass to $80 for stadium-adjacent lots. Many lower-priced lots have already sold out, so buy in advance.
Parking in downtown Chapel Hill is also an option, but be aware that the ParkMobile app, which services the parking meters and lots, will boost the rates for parking starting at 2 p.m. Wednesday.
Where is the best place to tailgate?
While you can tailgate in any lot for UNC sporting events, the main fan area will be set up near the Bell Tower lot on the stadium’s west end.
Both clubs will set up their fan zones in this area, and fans will have ample pregame hospitality options to explore. Professional tailgate services will have fan tents in this area, making it a good place to experience the liveliness and variety of a top-flight sporting event.
However, should you want a more low-key tailgate, fans looking to tailgate in other areas should remember they may bring tents as long as they don’t obstruct pathways or emergency lanes, but they may not block more than one space at a time.
How can I get to the game if I don’t want to drive?
The easiest option is the Tar Heel Express. This still requires some driving, but it keeps you out of the stadium lots.
The bus operates a park-and-ride service directly from their lots to the UNC campus. Starting at 5:30 p.m. On Wednesday, buses will run directly to the stadium from the Southern Village Park and Ride off 15-501 and the Friday Center Park and Ride off N.C. 54. Parking in those lots is free, but the Tar Heel Express costs $5.
The Express also runs from downtown Chapel Hill though parking in that area is not free.
Return rides on the Tar Heel Express will run for 45 minutes after the game ends, which may mean fans will need to exit the stadium quickly to ensure they don’t get left behind.
The regular Chapel Hill transit system will also run on Wednesday, but expect delays and some line closures due to the game.
If you must take public transportation, the best bus lines are the 400, 805, CL and NS to Stadium Drive stop near Stadium Gate #2.
— Chapel Hill Transit (@chtransit) July 13, 2023
What else should I know about tailgating at Kenan Memorial Stadium
Tailgating is a big deal at UNC sporting events. So big that the school has its own tailgating guidelines emphatically stating, “tailgating at UNC is a cherished part of the Tar Heel game day tradition.”
As long as you’re being a decent human being, the university is pretty open about what’s allowed.
Yes, you can drink. As long as you’re 21.
Yes, you can grill. As long as your grill isn’t any larger than a 55-gallon drum.
Yes, you can even use the university’s power outlets. You can also bring a generator as long as it’s not obnoxiously loud.
Glass is discouraged. You also can’t sell anything unless authorized by the university, and you can’t ride around on motorized vehicles.
Other than that, if you show up with a smile and a little something to share with other tailgaters, you will have a good time.
If you didn’t get a ticket, you can still see the teams play
On Tuesday, both teams will have open training sessions at Kenan Memorial Stadium. Wrexham will take the pitch at 5 p.m., and Chelsea will go on at 6:30 p.m. If you couldn’t get a ticket to the match, tickets for the practice session, which cost $15 each to start, are still open for purchase.