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Sport Venues | Florida | USA | Suntan Fun Playing Ball to Racing Cars

 

Ben Hill Griffin Stadium - “The Swamp,” is widely recognized as one of, if not the toughest, environments for a visiting team in all of college football. Without a bad seat in the house, and capacity for 88,548 fans, Ben Hill Griffin ranks as the largest stadium in the state of Florida. Public parking lots are very limited around the sports complex. All lots that are not reserved are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Parking on the grass and sidewalks is NOT permitted and you will be towed. Shuttles are available through RTS (Gator Aider) and Park-and-Ride locations are located throughout Gainesville. The RTS shuttles, available at the Hilton on SW 34th St and the Oaks Mall on Newberry Road, will save you time and you avoid having to search for a parking space. The cost is $8 per round trip or $40 for the season. Service begins 3 hours prior to each U of F home game and buses depart the stadium starting in the 4th quarter until 1 hour after the game. The “Gator Walk” is a local tradition and takes place 2 hours prior to each home game. 

 

To take part in this ritual, fans can visit the north end of the stadium to cheer on the team as they enter to get ready for the day’s game. Stadium gates open 90 minutes prior to kickoff and security is strict here. Food/drink containers, bottles/cans, thermoses, ice bags or chests, any artificial noise making device, flags, large cameras, weapons, umbrellas, strollers, back packs, large carry bags, video cameras/cases or any other items deemed hazardous by game management personnel are not be allowed in the stadium. This being my home state of Florida, I know that it is imperative to put on and keep applying sunscreen here, even if it is cloudy! The crown jewel of the facility is the new James W. "Bill" Heavener Football Complex which was entirely privately funded. Built in a year and a half after 16 donors stepped up and committed the entire $28 million, a spectacular 15-foot bronze Gator statue stands at the center of the entryway, paying tribute to Florida's 2006 National Championship Team. Again, we are in the SEC and football is taken very seriously! The University of Florida assembled a varsity football team for the first time in 1906, crushing the Gainesville Athletic Club (6-0) in its first game. Since then, the Gators have played in at total of 36 bowl games, won 3 National Championships (1996, 2006, and 2008), produced 138 All-Americans, 38 NFL first-round draft choices and 3 Heisman Trophy winners. "There is no better place than 'The Swamp.'

 

That opening on the big screen with the alligators, it's the best ever. When the Gators run out of the tunnel, it is absolutely the moment of moments in college football.” quoted from Lee Corso, ESPN College Football Analyst. Gator Growl has been a University of Florida tradition over 80 years. A showcase of athletic talent and spirited tradition, fireworks, light displays, live music, and comedy, this is the largest student production ever held. Always put on the night before the Homecoming game, over 500 students work hard to make this production happen. This year comedian, Dana Carvey is headlining, accompanied by the band O.A.R. and the winner of America's Best Dance Crew, the Jabbawockeez. Some famous Gators include the football icon Emmitt Smith, who was a running back here in 1989 and Erin Andrews, the well-known ESPN sideline sports reporter.

 

Interesting Note(s): The Gator Chomp (arms stretched out straight in front of you, representing an alligator’s mouth) is Florida’s most recognizable gesture, often done to the musical theme of Jaws. It is also performed at all kickoffs by all 90,000+ fans. What a scene to see all of the Gator fans in the crowd doing this in unison!

 

At the end of the 3rd quarter of every Gator football game, the University of Florida band plays the song, “Boys from Old Florida”, while thousands of fans lock arm in arm, sway back and forth and sing. Written back in the early 1920s, it became tradition and has been sung by swaying crowds at football games since 1930.

 

In 1965, 4 Medical Researchers at U of F invented the sports re-hydration drink known now as Gatorade™. Today, Gatorade can be found on the sidelines of more than 70 Division I colleges as well as being the official sports drink of many other pro and intercollegiate sports.

Daytona International Speedway, 1801 W. International Speedway Blvd., Daytona Beach, FL 32114 Open for racing since 1959, Daytona International Speedway is the home of "The Great American Race", the Daytona 500. The Daytona 500 is the richest and most prestigious race in the U.S. and once a year kicks off the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. This enormous 480-acre (the infield is 180 acres, including 29-acre Lake Lloyd) motorsports complex boasts the most varied schedule of racing on the globe, rightfully earning it the title of "World Center of Racing." The monster-sized Superspeedway is a 2.5-mile tri-oval track with a seating capacity of almost 168,000 spectators. It hosts races of motor vehicles of various kinds, including go-karts, motorcycles (on and off road), sports cars, modified pickup trucks, and stock cars. Rarely a week goes by that the Speedway grounds are not used for events that include civic and social gatherings, car shows, athletic games and events, photo "shoots", and police motorcycle training. In fact, the Speedway is also booked for more than two solid months each year for testing and development of various race vehicles. Guests can hop aboard a Speedway Tour, visit the Daytona Speedplay game center, browse in the Pit Shop souvenir and gift shop or grab a bite at the 4th Turn Grill snack bar. "The Ultimate Motorsports Attraction,"

 

The Daytona 500 Experience, is a highly interactive multi-million-dollar entertainment facility designed to bring both educational and fun experiences to visitors of all ages, regardless if they are racing fans or not. The Daytona 500 Experience is open daily 10 a.m. - 6 p.m, except for Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day. Track tours are available daily, weather and track conditions permitting. Adults are $24.00 & Senior and Kids 6-12 are $19.00. Some attractions include: "NASCAR 3D: The IMAX Experience," an exciting iWERKS motion simulator ride, tours (Have you ever wondered what it would be like to see the race from a $5,000 seat on Gatorade™ Victory Lane?) & the Richard Petty Driving Experience where for $135 you get to experience the thrill of racing around 31 degree turns as you ride shotgun in a stock car driven by one of their professional instructors for a simulated (3-lap) NASCAR qualifying run, exceeding speeds of 160 MPH. If you're feeling up to the challenge, drive the 8, 16 or 24 laps yourself in a racecar that boasts a whopping 600 HP! The experiences here at the track will set you back either $550, $1,300 or $2,200. When you are going to see a race, besides ear plugs, sunscreen and a hat, the most valuable item you’ll have are your sunglasses.

 

The glare from the sun can be intense! Remember to keep yourself hydrated and drink lots of water. Items not permitted into the racetrack: firearms, fireworks and items restricted by Local, State or Federal laws, hard sided coolers, thermos and insulated cups of any size, strollers, umbrellas or any bag, backpack or container larger than the allowed size of 6 x 6 x 12. You can actually bring your own food but there are some great choices inside the complex. Ever tried a Fried Bologna Sandwich? Check out the Midway food court & bar for some cool choices. Try the Prime Rib sandwiches, Checkers® burgers or Cheese Steaks. There are even ½ yard draft beer refills for $5 each and cocktails are available, as well. When at the complex for a race there are 3 permitted parking lots and 2 free of charge lots (Lots 7 & 10) with complimentary tram service for racecar fans.

 

There are 6 lots to choose to camp in whether you’re packing an RV or a tent. Package prices for Speedweek in February will run you $770 for a tent camping spot and between $1,200 and $2,870 (depending which lot) for the RV spots. The West Lot for RV Camping is outside of the track, but inside the complex and will only cost you $575. This is good for people who have fantastic seats but still drove their RV to come to the race. Kids under 12 are FREE in the infield!

Interesting note(s): This outdoor sports venue is near the coast; you’ll feel the humidity and think it’s not necessary to reapply that sun protection…not so!

When you are done watching the races, please do not forget you’re near one of the most famous beaches in the U.S. Be sure to get your tan on! My favorite place to stay is The Shores Resort and Spa in beautiful, sunny Daytona Beach Shores. Their Presidential Suite is breathtaking; featuring a Master bedroom with king-sized, four-poster bed, sitting area, plasma TV, gorgeous bath and private balcony overlooking the ocean.

-CA Suntan

 

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