Football fans descending on TIAA Bank Field for Saturday’s classic Georgia-Florida game will find familiar surroundings: lots of traffic and long lines.
They’ll also have to navigate a totally different roadway system outside the 76,000-seat stadium to get there and go home from the game as a road project nears the end of its 2½-year journey.
Saturday’s historic match between the Georgia Bulldogs and Florida Gators starts with a 3:30 p.m. kickoff. That’s hours after city officials say anyone going to the game should get there.
“It is critical that if you are coming to the game, you enter the stadium at that 1:30 p.m. mark to prevent any delays trying to get in too close to kickoff,” ASM Global stadium director Mike Kenny said.
“We have a lot going on downtown this weekend,” added Ellis Burns, the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office’s special events chief . “If you like to see the kickoff, we advise you to be in your parking spot five hours ahead of game time. Please plan on being parked by 10:30 a.m.”
Game day basics
Mayor Lenny Curry joined police, fire and event officials on Monday to share details leading up to this year’s game, hosted in Jacksonville since 1933.
Georgia is the home team this year. The city has installed extra seats in the stadium for the college classic.
RV City opened on Tuesday with more than 50 pulling into parking Lot E, and more trailers and campers are expected, Curry said. TIAA Bank Field’s parking lots open at 8 a.m. Saturday. No overnight parking is allowed, and cars left earlier will be towed, officials said.
The biggest change for football fans who haven’t been to the stadium lately is the major redesign of Gator Bowl Boulevard and others around TIAA Bank Field, most of it done.
Gator Bowl Boulevard is now a four-lane divided roadway with turn lanes and median cuts for access to stadium Lot J, the riverfront sites and WJCT Media, as well as north toward the Mathews Bridge and Martin Luther King Jr. parkway interchanges.
The ramps on and off Gator Bowl Boulevard to the overhead Hart Expressway heading to and from downtown just opened this week. And along with multiple new traffic signals and turn lanes, the interchange of Gator Bowl and A. Philip Randolph boulevards under the new Hart Expressway ramps has been reconfigured.
As of Thursday, city crews were still making final adjustments to the roadway, including new street lights. But the bulk of the project is now done.
The Sheriff’s Office will have six electronic signs pointing drivers to lots, so don’t rely on a cellphone or car navigation system because the roadways around the stadium have changed, Burns said. Police are telling fans to expect road closures all around the sports complex throughout the weekend, including A. Phillip Randolph Boulevard from Gator Bowl Boulevard to Duval Street.
TIAA Bank Field parking lots are presold, and fans are encouraged to have parking passes displayed as they approach the stadium. Fans who want to catch the teams walking into the stadium can see the Florida Gators arriving between 1:30 and 1:40 p.m. near Gate 1, and the Georgia Bulldogs between Gates 2 and 3. When the stadium gates open at 1:30 p.m., police will focus on safely getting pedestrians from lots to stadium, so drivers can expect delays on stadium roads after that, Burns said.
The Jacksonville Transportation Authority has Gameday Xpress and shuttle services from various venues: Kings Avenue Parking Garage in San Marco; Armsdale Park-n-Ride at 3191 Armsdale Road; Beaches Wingate Park at 277 Penman Road S.; and the Park-n-Ride at 7000 Philips Highway. The service runs from 12:30 p.m. until an hour after the end of game. Shuttle tickets are $10 per person for the Kings Avenue location. Tickets from all other lots are $15 per person. The Florida State College at Jacksonville Downtown Campus Lot site is not available this year. To purchase passes or for more information, go to jtafla.com/ride-jta/bus-schedules-and-services/gameday-xpress.
The Georgia-Florida Hall of Fame luncheon is set for noon Friday at TIAA Bank Field’s East Club. The Florida-Georgia exhibition baseball game begins at 6:30 p.m. Friday at 121 Financial Ballpark, a fireworks show to follow the game. The Luke Bryan: Raised Up Right Tour kicks off at 7 p.m. Friday at the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena at 300 A Philip Randolph Blvd., across from the ballfield.
The baseball game and concert will open at 5:30 p.m. and parking lots will be open by 4:30 p.m., Fields said. “At ASM-managed lots, parking will be cashless transactions, so please be prepared for credit cards vs. cash.”
The free Georgia-Florida Fan Fare and Welcome Center opens Saturday at the Dream Finders Homes Flex Field at Daily’s Place next to the stadium, from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Safety and security
• Information and First Aid Zones will be open from noon Saturday until 30 minutes after the game with basic medical help, first aid, cellphone chargers, transportation information and more. Those are at VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena at Duval Street and A Philip Randolph Boulevard; Daily’s Place South Lawn on Gator Bowl Boulevard; The Shipyards at Catherine and Bay streets; Lot E at TIAA Bank Field on East Adams Street off Talleyrand Avenue; the Veterans Memorial Wall near the stadium; and the Jacksonville Fire Museum on Gator Bowl Boulevard.
• Security policies will be in effect in the stadium: No coolers or containers, including cans, are allowed inside. No knives, guns and any type of weapons as well as laser pointers are allowed. Clear plastic bags are allowed and cannot be larger than 12- by 6- by 12-inches. Small clutch bags cannot be bigger than 4.5- by 6.5-inches. Cameras with detachable lenses or those longer than 6 inches are not allowed, nor is clothing with profane or obscene language/content.
• Undercover and uniformed officers will be in and around the stadium and all events for safety, traffic control and checking on underage consumption of alcohol, the Sheriff’s Office said. And due to darkness after the Friday concert and Saturday game, drivers should take a picture of where they parked to make it easier to get back to it afterwards.
• For more information, you can find overall game details here. More public safety, road closures and traffic information can be found at jaxsheriff.org. For live game day traffic updates, passengers are encouraged to follow JSO on twitter, @JSOPIO.