COLUMBIA — While the MU football team prepares for its nationally televised game against Nebraska, officials are working to accommodate thousands of fans coming in for the weeknight game.
On Oct. 8, the Tigers will face off against the Cornhuskers in the first midweek football game hosted by MU in 17 years. The game, which kicks off at 8 p.m., will be televised on ESPN.
But behind the scenes, there is potential for chaos regarding parking and traffic logistics for the Thursday night game.
The university will not be canceling classes the day of the game, said Karen Touzeau, MU assistant vice chancellor for human resource services.
Jim Joy, director of MU Parking and Transportation Services, said more than 7,000 students and 800 employees should plan to move their cars from the parking lots and garages around Memorial Stadium. They will be required to move their cars closer to the heart of campus by no later than 4 p.m. on Oct. 8.
Joy said the MU parking office will send students relocation announcements a week prior to the game and again a few days later. Typically, the department notifies students the Wednesday before a Saturday game.
Students who park in lots such as Hearnes Center are required to move their cars to any lot, garage or metered parking space north of Rollins Street. Joy said the number of people being displaced from the lots near the stadium is normal.
“It’s the same number of people we move for a weekend game, but the difference is the congestion for a Thursday night,” he said. “Those affected have already been through this process twice this year already.”
He said the department is encouraging businesses and workplaces downtown and on campus to send employees home by 3 p.m. to avoid traffic congestion.
“If you live outside Columbia and it usually takes 15 minutes to get home, it might take 45 minutes because of congestion,” Joy said.
The Maryland Avenue parking garage and a garage near University Hospital are usually open for public parking on Saturday games, but that will not be the case for the Nebraska game, Joy said. The garages will be restricted for student and employee use only.
He said there will be approximately 2,000 fewer public parking spaces than during a weekend game because of the garage restrictions.
“For our home games so far this year, there have been at least 1,000 empty spaces in Hitt Street garage and certainly some of the surface lots further north,” he said.
Joy recommends that Tiger Scholarship Fund donors don’t arrive early to park because parking lots don’t open until 4:30 p.m., a half-hour earlier than they would open for a weekend game.
“If thousands of donors come early, they’ll just be circling around waiting for the lots to open,” he said. “It’s better to come on time and get in to prevent traffic.”
Joy said the game provides opportunities for more carpooling and the use of city bus services that shuttle fans between locations.
The city of Columbia will be offering alternative bus and shuttle routes, Joy said. The information will be online a week prior to the game.
Joy said the buses could get caught up in pedestrian problems and construction just like they would on any normal day.
“Things will be operating, just not as smoothly because of congestion,” he said.
Joy said a 20-person task force — including representatives from MU Parking and Transportation Services, athletics, hospital security, the Department of Residential Life and police — was created to facilitate communication for this game.
“A number of departments formed a communication base so that we’re all hearing the same things and working together,” he said.
Joy said he expects fewer out-of-town fans to come for a weekday game because taking time off work would cause issues for many.
“I’m sure Nebraska will bring a loyal fan base, but I also think our own fans from St. Louis and Kansas City will find it’s more difficult to come on a weekday,” he said.
Chad Moller, MU athletics department spokesman, said the game had not yet sold out.
“We’re hoping to reach our 71,004 official capacity,” he said.
Moller said the tailgating lots will open at 4:30 p.m. instead of five hours prior to the game like usual. He said a weekday game should benefit MU, especially the students.
“We’ll be the only game in the country on that night so anyone who turns on the TV gets to see Mizzou playing,” he said. “The exposure is something you can’t put a price tag on.”
The Mizzou Gameday Web site provides more information.