The largest regularly scheduled paid attendance events in Northeast Mississippi are home football games at the University of Mississippi and Mississippi State University, and each school continues making decisions adding structure, convenience and safety to the crowd-intensive game day atmosphere in Oxford and Starkville.
Additional shuttle bus service was tentatively added last week by the Oxford University Transit for the fall 2013 home games for fans parking off campus in parking lots owned by or accessible to the university. The new temporarily altered routes are expected to join game-day, fee-based shuttles the city will provide from the Activity Center on Molly Barr Road and Oxford Conference Center just off Sisk Avenue at Highway 7.
The Oxford Activity Center shuttle has operated for several years, often to capacity ridership.
Mississippi State makes similar use of its shuttle services.
Both MSU and Ole Miss temporarily become the second-largest cities in the state on their game days, filling both Oxford and Starkville with fans, those who come to enjoy the atmosphere and those who spend time shopping and eating.
Ole Miss officials and the athletic department earlier announced a policy, beginning this fall, eliminating free, non-student parking on campus for home games, conversion to an all-paid fan parking system, with expanded shuttle service as a partial response.
Officials cited past unsafe parking that included blocked emergency routes and sidewalks. Paid football fan parking also will help fund the transit service’s regular routes.
Parking off campus is regulated on streets by the city of Oxford and by private property owners.
Ole Miss, as reported by the NCAA, ranked 30th nationwide in average home-game attendance in 2012 (57,066), and Mississippi State averaged 55,026. Construction on an enlarged stadium at MSU has started; Ole Miss has plans in the works for enlarging its stadium.
The OUT routes will be in addition to the fee-based shuttles the city will provide from the Activity Center on Molly Barr Road and Oxford Conference Center off Sisk Avenue at Highway 7.
New shuttle service buses may begin operating as early as 5:30 a.m. on football days to accommodate tailgaters getting to the heart of the campus.
The most positive free exposure both universities receive comes from television broadcasts of campus football games. Effective parking rules help the image and the fan experience, both universities and both cities.