Game days at The University of Alabama are a time of reunions, fellowship and watching the Crimson Tide roll to another victory for the thousands who descend upon the Capstone for football games every fall.
And while the main attraction is the action on the gridiron, numerous other crimson-clad teams spend months preparing and long hours executing operational plans that create a top-notch experience for the hundreds of thousands on campus for game day.
The work for UA’s Facilities maintenance and grounds departments starts long before the first kickoff in Bryant-Denny Stadium. Facilities maintenance crews begin checking the status of the stadium’s electrical, plumbing and HVAC systems two to three months before the first home game. The preparation phase also includes verifying every area of the stadium is ready for fans before the season starts.
Once game day arrives, 50-60 staff members are stationed throughout the stadium to monitor the countless systems and respond to any maintenance issues.
“Crews arrive eight hours before kickoff to get the stadium’s mechanical and electrical systems running and operational,” said Greg McKelvey, executive director of maintenance operations and energy management at UA. “They will stay until the last person leaves to shut down everything and turn off the lights.”
The departments also have numerous responsibilities away from the stadium to ensure all tailgaters and visitors have a first-class experience.
Prior to game day
Crews begin the tall task of providing countless amenities across campus:
- 325 portable toilets.
- 12 air-conditioned restroom trailers.
- 400 trash cans.
- 130 recycling containers.
To accommodate tailgaters, crews place electrical power boxes, generators and burn barrels for those who choose to grill around the Quad.
On game day
It takes more than 100 employees to walk around the Quad and other parts of campus to support operations and keep the area clean:
- 35 custodial workers.
- 10 maintenance workers.
- 60-80 groundskeepers.
Once the game is over, crews start the clean-up process, which includes disposing of an average 50-60 tons of trash, with the goal of having the campus back to its normal state by noon Sunday.
“Our crew takes great pride in how the campus looks every day. Once the game is over, we’re eager to get the campus looking back to normal to where you wouldn’t have known a game ever happened.” Bryant Anderson, director of the grounds department at UA
A more noticeable team that patrols UA’s campus on game day is the UA Police Department. Safety on game day is paramount with the magnitude of visitors on campus, and UAPD Chief John Hooks and his staff are always fine-tuning their security measures and protocols.
“We meet with our game day partners once or twice a week throughout football season to constantly improve our operations,” said Hooks. “We begin talking about the next football season at the end of the last season.”
In recent years, safety measures have increased by strategically placing security barriers around the stadium, adding metal detectors at all gates and deploying private security staff.
According to Hooks, UAPD begins implementing its security protocols on Thursdays prior to home games and enhances measures until a safe and secure perimeter is established by Saturday morning.
“It’s a huge responsibility that we undertake to protect hundreds of thousands of fans on game day, and we wholeheartedly accept that responsibility with full commitment and vigilance,” said Hooks. “Coach Saban says to do your job and trust the process, and, for many decades, we have created a great process that allows our fans to have a wonderful and safe game day experience. Every single game, we continue that process with great pride, excellence, service and humility.”
While the fans on campus may differ in which team they cheer for, there’s one opponent all visitors want to avoid – traffic.
New to game days this year is UA Info Radio, which streams on 92.5 FM, ready.ua.edu, the UA Safety app and the UA Gameday app. UA Info Radio provides pregame and postgame traffic updates, as well as information on parking and pregame events.
“We have one of the best game day experiences in the nation, and UA Info Radio makes the experience better for our fans,” said Dr. Donald Keith, director of emergency management at UA. “As fans drive into Tuscaloosa, they can tune in and hear the information they need before arriving on campus.”
In addition, specific safety tips — such as what to do if you get separated from your party or how to contact UAPD — are broadcast. In the event of severe weather or other emergencies that may occur during the game, UA Info Radio will provide fans with timely safety information.
The combined efforts of these dedicated teams and many others set the backdrop for football Saturdays at the Capstone. And like the Crimson Tide, they will not rest on their laurels but will continue to hone their skills to put forth a winning product for all who visit UA every fall.