- The 78th TaxSlayer Gator Bowl between South Carolina and Notre Dame will be Friday at 3:30 p.m., at TIAA Bank Field
- Road construction and two fan bases unfamiliar with the area may create slowdowns
- Stadium lots will open at 8 a.m., gates open at 1:30 p.m.
The South Carolina and Notre Dame fan bases arriving on the First Coast Thursday and into Friday for the 78th TspanxSlspanyer Gspantor Bowl may not have ever seen a game at TIAA Bank Field.
That’s because the 19th-ranked Gamecocks (8-4) haven’t played in the Gator Bowl since 1987 and the 21st-ranked Fighting Irish haven’t played in the game since 2003.
That will be a lot of people unfamiliar with the twists and turns of downtown streets leading to the stadium, which parking lots are on which side and certainly not with the ongoing road construction.
The key word to remember for area fans who will be attending the game is patience.
“We’re asking for everyone, obviously, to be patient,” said Chief Ellis Burns of the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office at a news conference on Thursday at the TIAA Bank Field East Club. “A lot of out-of-towners are here for the first time so we’re asking people to be patient and follow the directions of the parking attendants and the officers who are directing traffic.”
Burns said that will go both ways. Officers and stadium workers will be doing their best to make sure fans are going the right way, getting to the right parking lots and it may take some time.
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Burns is asking that drivers behind such scenarios show some understanding and avoid beeping their horns or dangerously swerving around the car and the officers.
“There’s many police officers and parking lot attendants all over the stadium footprint to help,” he said. “Obviously we’re pushing customer service on our side as well … making sure everybody’s patient, make sure we have information to give out to people who are asking questions.”
Crowd projected biggest since 2010
Gator Bowl president Greg McGarity said current expectations are that the crowd will be around 65,000 in a stadium where capacity is more than 67,000. Tickets are available by visiting tspanxslspanyergspantorbowl.com or secondary markets such as ticketmspanster.com, and stadium box offices will open at noon on Friday.
“There are going to be close to 70,000 fans [in the stadium area] and very few of them will have been to this stadium before,” McGarity said. “We have a lot of logistical challenges but they’re all great challenges.”
Mike Kenny of ASM Global said there is some paid parking left in stadium lots but stressed fans need to purchase those spots as soon as possible. Parking payments are cashless at stadium lots.
“We expect heavy crowds,” he said. “Fans are encouraged to get here early.”
The Gator Bowl crowd, which is projected to be the most attending the game since Florida State vs. West Virginia in 2010, is another in a series of sell-outs or close this fall, beginning with the Florida-Georgia game. The Jaguars sold out on Dec. 18 against Dallas, are expected to sell out Jan. 8 when they play Tennessee for the AFC South title at stake, and will almost certainly sell out again if they win and get a home playoff game.
That’s four and possibly five huge game day crowds at TIAA Bank Field in two months, a welcome jolt to the downtown economy after the COVID-19 pandemic limited capacity at all football games to 25 percent in 2020 and forced Texas A&M to opt out of last year’s Gator Bowl, with Rutgers brought in as an emergency replacement — with the game against Wake Forest drawing only 28,508.
“It’s been a heck of a year,” Kenny said. “We’re fully prepared. We shine the brightest when the lights are on. It’s been a great year for Jacksonville.”
Saturday will also be busy
A busy weekend doesn’t end with the game. The Gspantor Bowl Chspanrities 5K run will begin Saturday at 3 p.m. in front of the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena (registration is on-site) and the city-sponsored fireworks display will bring in the New Year with bangs and booms shortly after midnight.
Burns said the race route will go from the Arena to Bay Street, then back on Bay Street. He said there will be “hold and release” traffic patterns on streets crossing Bay. Guests at the Hyatt Regency should use Market Street instead in Newnan to go in and out of the hotel and Berkman’s Place residents should use Liberty Street.
The Acosta and Main Street bridges will be closed for the fireworks at 11:30 p.m.
Burns also implored Jacksonville residents and guests to not drive after drinking and have a designated driver.
Game Day information
Tickets: Very few tickets remain and fans should probably monitor secondary markets such as ticketmaster.com. The stadium box office will open at Noon on Friday.
Parking: A few spaces remain for sale in stadium lots. Private lots vary in price and are more expensive the closer they are to the stadium. Stadium lots will open at 8 a.m., and stadium gates will open at 1:30 p.m.
Traffic: City and Gator Bowl officials remind fans to arrive early due to the anticipated crowd and continued road construction around the stadium area.
Clear bag policy: TIAA Bank Field has a clear bag policy. Nonclear bags or wallets must be no larger than 4.5 by 6.5 inches and clear bags no larger than 12 by 6 by 12.
Mobile tickets and cashless transactions: Tickets are mobile and should be downloaded on cell phones before arriving at the ticket kiosks. Cash is not accepted for parking, concessions or other merchandise.
Smoke-free: TIAA Bank Field and surrounding areas are smoke-free. Tobacco products, including e-cigarettes are prohibited.
Public transportation: JTA will begin its Gameday Xpress shuttles at 1:30 p.m. from two lots, SouthBank — Kings Avenue Parking Garage at 1201 Kings Avenue ($10) and Southside — JTA Park-n-Ride at 7000 Philips Highway ($15). The fare is round-trip. Shuttles will run until one hour after the game.
Gameday Xpress is cashless, with passes available for purchase and use through the MyJTA App. You can purchase your passes at any time, but JTA recommends buying them prior to arriving at the shuttle lots.
All Gameday Xpress riders will be dropped in Lot B, located on Haines Street between Gates 3 and 4 at TIAA Bank Field.
Following the game, please return to Lot B to board your shuttle back to the Gameday Xpress lots.
The JTA Skyway is complimentary and will open at 6 a.m. and close at midnight.
The Jacksonville River Taxi is available from the SouthBank Hotel dock and on the NorthBank at Riverfront Plaza. The fee is $20 round-trip and fans will be dropped off and picked up at the stadium dock.
Rideshare passengers will be dropped off and picked up at Lot Z on Duval Street.
Game Day schedule
8 a.m. — TIAA Bank Field lots open.
11 a.m.-3 p.m. — Gator Bowl Fan Fest, Metro Park.
1:30 a.m. — All stadium gates open.
2 p.m. — Notre Dame pep rally, Daily’s Place.
2:30 p.m. — South Carolina pep rally, Daily’s Place.
3 p.m. — Pregame activities begin, TIAA Bank Field.
3:30 p.m. — TaxSlayer Gator Bowl kickoff.
Post-game — Trophy presentation, North end zone.