JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – While the Georgia-Florida game is still a go, it is going to look and feel very different this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
City leaders held a news conference Monday ahead of Saturday’s matchup about the changes.
“I would remind you, months ago, there was uncertainty there would be any sports, much less the ability to have this tradition in our city, and it is happening this year,” said Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry.
One major change this year is there will be no RV City, but there will be some private lots that will be open for recreational vehicles.
In addition, there will be no tailgating in city-owned and city-managed parking lots. Bold City Bash will also be a no-go.
But local business owners and private lots around the stadium are gearing up for tailgaters.
River City Railway on East Adams Street is a private railcar tailgating area and some fans could already be seen there Thursday morning. The CEO of the company that manages the River City Railway said they’re already sold out for the big game.
He also said mask use is being enforced and people are advised to wash their hands and be safe
Across the street from River City Railway, a sign could be seen advertising parking for people who want to tailgate.
And another company, Party Shack, builds and deploys portable pods where people can tailgate. They’ll be part of the Georgia Bulldogs Club tailgate at the WJCT property, near Metropolitan Park.
The co-owner said safety measures are in place too. People will be spread out and the number of people allowed in each area will be limited.
“We are working with all the private lot owners and then we will have officers assisting them in those lots,” said Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office Chief of Special Events Andre Ayoub.
Fans without tickets to watch the Bulldogs and Gators play are strongly encouraged to stay away from TIAA Bank Field and the surrounding Downtown Sports Complex area on game day. All tickets will be mobile -- a change from previous years.
Inside the stadium, masks and face coverings are required at all times, even in seats, unless actively eating or drinking. There will also be hand-sanitizing stations.
Beer and wine will be sold during the game, and concessions will be cashless.
“We will not tolerate underage drinking," Ayoub said. "There will be undercover and uniform police officers enforcing this.”
On Saturday, parking lots open at 12:30 p.m., stadium gates open at 1:30 p.m. and kickoff is at 3:30 p.m.
“Let me just say this: Let’s just be smart,” Curry said. “Both universities have protocols for game day and so do NFL teams, our NFL team. They have asked what we do here is consistent with what they do at their schools, and that’s a reasonable expectation. We are living amid a pandemic. We’re navigating COVID in a safe and responsible way in our city, so I am asking people just to be smart. If you have a ticket, come to the parking lot. You’re going to be with your family and your friends. You’re going to do your thing in a smart and safe way. You don’t need to be down there unnecessarily if you don’t have a ticket.”
According to the city, 19,000 fans will be allowed into the stadium.
There will Information & First Aid Zones where residents, students and visitors can find assistance, including basic medical help, first aid, transportation services information, directions, water and more. The zones will be open Saturday from noon until 30 minutes after the game at the following locations:
- Northbank Lawn: 2 Independent Drive
- Shipyards: 724 E. Bay St.
- Veterans Memorial Wall: 1145 E. Adams St.
- Met Park 2: 1406 Gator Bowl Blvd.
- Stadium North Bus Loop: E. Beaver St.
- Lot E: Near 1738 E. Adams St.
This year is only the second time in the history of the storied rivalry that the Georgia-Florida game and a Jacksonville Jaguars game will be played back to back, so crews will be working quickly to transform the stadium in time for the NFL game Sunday.
For more information, visit flgajax.com.