University of Alabama officials reiterated their recommendation that fans to arrive early for Saturday’s matchup between LSU and Alabama, which is expected to draw more than 150,000 people to campus, including President Donald Trump.
“We are ready to go in case he says he is not coming. We are ready to go in case he is not coming,” Nick Frenz, UA assistant director of Transportation Event Management, said Thursday.
Other than the additional security, Frenz had few additional details about the presidential visit.
“It just sort of depends on what time his arrival would be. We don’t know that. It just sort of depends on what time he gets here. Secret Service is going to handle that. We will do our best to accommodate all of that,” he said.
For fans hoping for a glimpse of Trump, Frenz's response was similar.
“We don’t know where he is going. We have no idea where that detail will take him,” he said.
LSU, ranked No. 2 in the College Football Playoff rankings, and Alabama, ranked No. 3, are scheduled to kick off at 2:30 p.m. Saturday at Bryant-Denny Stadium.
The university and community have been preparing for the possibility of a presidential visit for most of the week, though the president only confirmed he planned to attend Wednesday night during a rally in Louisiana.
"Considering the magnitude of this year’s game with LSU and an accompanying presidential visit, we are adding additional resources across several disciplines," Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox said Thursday. "It will be an epic weekend in Tuscaloosa as we grow to well over 200,000 people in just a few hours. Understanding this, fans should expect ever-changing conditions to travel, parking and entrance into areas in and around the stadium. With patience and flexibility, we will be able to showcase our ability to rise to the occasion with the eyes of the nation upon us."
The Tuscaloosa National Airport is advising those considering flying in for the game to arrive by Friday or early Saturday because of heavy air traffic expected for the weekend and the delays and dissruptions that will occur later Saturday with the arrival of the president.
The university has been encouraging fans to try to arrive early because of additional security measures associated with the presidential visit as well as the larger-than-normal crowd expected for the matchup of undefeated SEC West teams. ESPN’s College GameDay and the SEC Network’s SEC Nation will also be at UA on Saturday. GameDay will be on the Quad in front of Lloyd Hall, and SEC Nation will be in front of Little and A.B. Moore halls.
The university is expecting about 1,700 tailgates on campus, similar to the crowds attracted by the 2011 game between the two teams.
“Both teams are undefeated again. It is the same type of atmosphere that is involved. It is going to be similar all the way around out there,” Frenz said.
The university is planning to have additional buses, restrooms, extra trash collectors for the crowd, he said.
Some of the reserve tailgating spots were shifted south on the eastern side of the Quad to accommodate GameDay, Frenz said, but the move did not eliminate any capacity.
“Everybody who has been on the Quad in the past will be on the Quad,” he said.
The Friday evening tailgate drop off will remain from 6-8 p.m., but roads will close at 8 a.m. on Saturday because of the network GameDay shows on and near the Quad. The west side road blocks will remain open until about 10 a.m. to accommodate drop-offs on the Quad, he said.
The stadium gates will open at 11:30 a.m.
“Basically, GameDay ends at 11. SEC Nation ends at 11 a.m. If they have the opportunity, to make their way over, they should make their way over as soon as they can,” he said.
The combination of afternoon kickoff, the added security and larger crowd expected on Saturday will likely mean delays getting on campus and into the stadium for those who don’t arrive early, Frenz said.
Fans can use the normal gameday routes to campus, Frenz said.
“If you are getting down here after 12-1 p.m. in the afternoon, it is going to be extremely difficult to get you in, get you parked and getting you over to the stadium and through the gates in time for the game to start. You really have to factor all of that in,” he said.
Post-game traffic plans will not be any different, Frenz said, other than the anticipation that fans will stay in the stadium longer for the game.
“That will create challenges of its own with everyone leaving at once, but we are ready for that,” he said.
Other than the additional security and adjustments to the timing of road closures and the opening of the gates, Frenz predicted the game-day experience will be otherwise unchanged for fans.
“It is just a heightened level of going through the metal detector, but it is all the same,” he said.
The clear bag policy and list of prohibited items remain in effect, he said.
The athletics deparment said Thursday afternoon that some items typically permitted in the stadium, such as empty cups, will not be allowed in this weekend. Other items that will be prohibited include:
• Animals other than service/guide animals
• Artificial noisemakers (bells, horns, whistles, cow bells, etc.)
• Cameras with telephoto lenses over 6 inches long
• Chair backs larger than a single seat (16 inches wide) or with zippers, pockets or compartments
• Clear bags bigger than 12 inches by 6 inches by 12 inches
• Non-clear bags bigger than 4 1/2 inches by 6 1/2 inches
• Drones and other unmanned aircraft systems
• Glass, thermal or metal containers
• Gun parts, holsters, magazines, etc.
• Laser pointers
• Mace/pepper spray
• Selfie sticks
• Supports for signs and placards
• Toy guns
• Video recorders or camcorders
• Weapons of any kind
• Any other items determined to be a potential safety hazard