JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – One stop this weekend for many Bulldogs fans, Gators fans, spectators and visitors in town for the Georgia-Florida game Saturday will be the Jacksonville Landing, which has traditionally been the centerpiece of weekend festivities.
The celebrations kicked off at noon Friday and will continue throughout the weekend with live music, DJs, watch parties and more.
On the eve of the rivalry game, security, safety and business were on the minds of many, including business owners, at the downtown riverfront landing. Friday marked two months since two people were killed in the Aug. 26 mass shooting.
Michael Cobb -- who runs a business, Accentuate "Elevate Your Style" Boutique, out of the Landing with his wife, Mona -- said he wants visitors to know, "The heartbeat of Jax is the Jax Landing, the hub of downtown."
The Cobbs said their shop has been opened at the Landing for about five years, and they said profits go up on Georgia-Florida weekend.
"I would probably say about 50-60 percent increase," Mona Cobb said.
Sylvia Walker, the owner of a spa inside the Landing called NAIWBE Natural As I Wanna Be, said she brings in extra staff for this weekend.
"As a small business, it is a great opportunity. It works well for me," Walker said. "We are expecting a good crowd."
Both businesses said they do not bring in extra security.
The Landing has put up gates and there will be a $10 cover. Children 12 and younger accompanied by an adult will be free. No backpacks, coolers, chairs, outside food and drink, luggage and oversized bags, weapons/firearms, masks, fireworks, bottles and cans, or flying objects are allowed on the Landing’s property. No Halloween costume masks or anything that covers the face will be allowed. The Landing will allow small bags including clutches, satchels, drawstring bags and anything under 12 inches by 12 inches on to the property.
"We really don't mind if we're checked or anything like that," said Michelle Smith, who will be attending the game. "I think it's the safety issues that's No. 1."
The Sideline Safety Zone returned to the first-floor at The Landing, located by the escalators inside the mall, for anyone who needs assistance during the event. There will be access to directions,
first aid and medical support, water, telephone service, cellphone charges, snacks, coffee, maps, and other information. The zone will be open from 8 p.m. Friday to 2 a.m. Saturday, and from noon Saturday to 2 a.m. Sunday. For more information, visit flgajax.com or call the hotline 904-630-SAFE (7233).
A worker at Chicago Pizza, where gunfire erupted two months ago during a Madden tournament at the Good Luck Have Fun Game Bar inside the restaurant, told News4Jax they will be bringing in extra security in addition to the security provided by the Landing.
The Landing could not comment on specifics about security, saying it's a public safety matter.
Earlier this week, the city issued a permit for the Georgia-Florida celebration at the Landing. The party at the traditional gathering before and after the game was in question because the city claimed Landing management did not submit its plans in time. According to Mayor Lenny Curry's chief of staff, Brian Hughes, the permit was issued Wednesday morning, but it came with conditions. The city set a limit of 7,500 people within a fenced area that includes temporary bars. It does not apply to established businesses and restaurants already at the Landing. The city requires clearly marked entrances and exits, and that a fire marshal representative be on hand at all times.
According to the Sheriff's Office, more than 650 officers will be working at Saturday's game and in surrounding neighborhoods. People can expect to see additional lighting systems, patrols and officers stretching from the Landing to tailgating areas around the stadium to RV City.