By Errol Castens
OXFORD – Football fans at the University of Mississippi and Mississippi State University campuses for games this fall will see significant changes in parking and a few in tailgating.
At Ole Miss, campus parking will go largely to students and donors. City of Oxford and university officials will take strong measures against illegally parked vehicles and will protect dorm-resident parking as well.
“At one of our large SEC games last year, we had a group that counted some 800 vehicles parked on sidewalks in a manner that obstructed pedestrians,” said Larry Sparks, vice chancellor for finance and administration.
One offset is a new lot of about 300 spaces near the Indoor Training Facility.
The city will provide $5 round-trip game-day shuttle service from Oxford Middle School, Oxford Activity Center and Oxford Conference Center before and after each game. Oxford-University Transit is also likely to modify some Saturday routes to better accommodate football fans.
Fans may also park at the Oxford Mall or at the former Whirlpool plant on Old Taylor Road and ride a free shuttle into campus.
Mississippi State has temporarily lost about 700 parking spaces due to ongoing construction to expand Davis-Wade Stadium.
“It’s going to be a challenging season for us, but the athletic department and the university proper have spent a great deal of manpower and time into making changes work,” said Sid Salter, MSU’s director of university relations. “We’ll be ready to welcome people onto campus for a great game-day experience.”
State fans and visitors can park at the Cochran Research Park, the Mississippi Horse Park, the Wise Center or downtown Starkville and ride MSU shuttles into the campus core.
Salter said the $75 million expansion will add 22 suites and 6,255 seats, bringing the stadium to a capacity of 61,337 by July 2014.
MSU officials will restrict commercial setups this year to half of the Amphitheater area and the Ag-Bio grass area. Next year, commercial setup firms will pay fees for access.
“The Gameday Committee … came to the conclusion that the rapid increase of commercial tailgating companies represented a threat to the mom-and-pop, walk-up tailgater,” Salter said.
The policy will allow up to 250 spaces for tailgating setup companies, which can start work as early as 8 a.m. a day before game day. Non-commercial setups will commence eight hours later.
Ole Miss officials will not restrict commercial tailgate setups this year, but such companies must observe the same setup times as the public. Ole Miss also will require setup companies, caterers and other vendors to buy a permit for each vehicle.
Rumblings of paid, assigned tailgating spaces at Ole Miss have drawn ire, but university officials will study other ways to ease conflicts of interest.
“We’ll have groups interviewing and surveying our fans and asking about their tailgating experience, what would work and not work,” Sparks said. “I hate to speculate on what we will or won’t do. We know we’d like to enact some additional procedures, but we want to involve our fans and get a feel for what they think would be helpful and not helpful.”