RV City opens, city gears up for Georgia-Florida game

Fans pack RV City days before the annual battle of Bulldogs-Gators

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – RV City officially opens Tuesday morning, ahead of Saturday's iconic Georgia-Florida game.

The News4Jax Sky 4 helicopter showed loyal fans and their campers lined up days ago, waiting to get the perfect spot at RV City for Jacksonville's most famous tailgate party.

At a news conference Tuesday, the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department, JTA, and SMG laid out changes to traffic patterns, roads closures, transportation and safety tips.

In the wake of Sunday's drive-by shooting on A. Phillip Randolph Boulevard that injured six people one-half mile from TIAA Bank Field, police are beefing up security. More than 650 officers will be working at Saturday's game and in the surrounding area.

The Sheriff’s Office won’t say how many more officers that is than would normally work a game, but said it is an increase.

"That’s about a third of our sworn police officers on JSO," Chief Andre Ayoub said. "JSO that is how serious we take this event."

There will also be additional lighting going up Thursday night, including on the area where Sunday's shooting took place.

"Just illuminate that neighborhood, increase some security staff and specialty units to address any issues, not just violent crime,' Ayoub said.

UNCUT: City leaders discuss Georgia-Florida events, transportation, safety

People who've been lined up outside RV City for days said they feel safe despite hearing the gunshots Sunday afternoon. They’re just looking forward to the Georgia-Florida festivities this week.

 “The police have really stepped up their patrol in this area since then. And I have seen several police cars that have actually come into this lot and park for some time,” said Peter Wells, a fan attending the game. 

Police, stadium and transportation officials urged fans to arrive early. The parking lots will open at 8 a.m. and gates to the stadium open at 1:30 p.m. -- two hours before kick off.  

Game day traffic is expected to be heavy and fans are strongly encouraged to arrive five hours early. Fans may consider utilizing transportation alternatives such as the JTA Gameday Xpress or the River Taxi, which will run until midnight Friday and Saturday.

For the second year in a row, SMG, which runs the stadium, will use metal detectors and will perform bag searches for any items carried into the game. The TIAA Bank Field clear-bag policy will also be in effect.

The Navy's Blue Angels, in town for the airshow at NAS Jacksonville, will perform the pre-game flyover. Between the stadium and other parts of downtown, there will be six Sideline Safety Zones to offer free assistance, from first aid to transportation, local information and directions, telephone access, cell phone charging stations, snacks, water and more. 

Georgia-Florida weekend events begin well before the game. The Fan Experience will kickoff with a free Friday night concert in the Flex Field at Daily’s Place featuring country music star Corey Smith. Opening for Smith is local musician Sol Rydah.

On Saturday, the Fan Experience, open from 9 a.m. until the end of halftime, will feature interactive games and sponsor activations. 

For the first time in college football history, ESPN’s College Game Day and SEC Nation will broadcast live from the same game. College Game will originate from Metropolitan Park, beginning at 9 a.m. The SEC Nation location will be in Lot P of the stadium complex. This is SEC Nation’s third consecutive year at the game, but this will be College GameDay’s first time since 2005. 

About the Authors:

Jim Piggott is the reporter to count on when it comes to city government and how it will affect the community.

Ashley Harding joined the Channel 4 news team in March 2013. She reports for and anchors The Morning Show.