JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Florida-Georgia game is Oct. 30, and it could be smaller. The city is looking into getting rid of about 6,000 seats for the game.
City of Jacksonville chief administrative officer Brian Hughes says the decision to reduce seating is a joint agreement between the city and both schools.
Hughes says reconfiguring the seating was always a part of the discussion. Two main factors were enhancing the experience for fans and COVID-19 concerns.
Hughes says the city is obligated to spend roughly $800,000 which is in the new contract. Hughes says it is budgeted, so the city is not losing any money. It must either be spent entirely on temporary seating or split with the schools if seats are eliminated.
According to the city, in the new deal for this year, if approved, the seating in the north end zone would be different and would be considered “premium seating.”
Hughes says it would enhance the fan experience. Some expectations include the cabanas in that part of the stadium to be activated for the game, people can gather in that area and have space, along with having access to additional concessions.
Hughes says the seating plan for the annual game can change each year.
“How do we continue to make sure that the Florida Georgia experience is the best it can be?,” Hughes said. “Just putting in seats is not ensuring the fan experience. Making sure the numbers right and that there’s opportunities both for the city to have its business taken care of, but also to make sure the schools and the people that they bring with them to come see this game and enjoy it. Have a fan experience that is second to none.”
The City Council is expected to vote on this plan at next Tuesday’s meeting, which is just five days before the game. If approved, the city would pay each school $400,000.
Despite the possible changes, some business owners around TIAA Bank Field think this year will be busier than ever.
“This year we’ll break the record for my 30 years of the experience,” said Jashwant Shah, the owner of Tailgaters Bar & Grill.
Shah said he has been booking RVs that take up spots on his property for weeks.
“One month before, my parking lot (is all sold out) and a lot of people are still calling for parking,” Shah said.
The city of Jacksonville is in its first year of a five-year deal to host the contest.
The game requires seating for at least 82,917 fans. If the emergency plan to scrap 6,000 seats is given the go-ahead, the new capacity would be 76,700 this year.
There would still be temporary seats at the game, but they would be added throughout different parts of the stadium.
This year’s game will not have limited seating for COVID-19 precautions.
During 2020′s matchup, only 19,000 fans were allowed inside the stadium because of the COVID-19 pandemic. TIAA Bank Field was open at 25% capacity that day.
Kick-off next Saturday is at 3:30 p.m.