Fans coming to South Carolina football games at Williams-Brice Stadium this season will see some big additions and less clutter around the stadium apron. Here are eight new things for 2012.
Details were provided by Kevin O’Connell, USC’s executive associate athletics director, and Eric Nichols, assistant athletic director for marketing:
1. The big TV
Responding to the wishes of fans, USC hurried and built a 36-by-124-foot, $6.5 million high-definition video board for this season -- the third largest in the SEC. Fans will get more of a TV-like experience with close-ups, replays, statistics and notes. Game status updates -- score, down-and-distance and game clock -- is on a separate score board right under the video board to leave more room for the picture. The school said the same number of ads will appear as previous seasons on what was the SEC’s third smallest video board. The video board will be ready for kickoff Saturday, though some cosmetic work will remain with installing some metal panels on the back.
2. A new market
USC is debuting a 3,000-space tailgating complex on the former site of the State Farmer’s Market, reportedly called Gamecock Park. The $30.5 million project includes hundreds of trees, including scarlet oaks with leaves that turn dark red. Parking spots in the front for the athletic department’s biggest boosters have electric and cable television hookups. Power lines have been buried for a cleaner look and the school has created wide crosswalks to ease getting across Bluff Road to the stadium.
3. Gamecock Walk
Gamecock players used to walk a short way among fans in the parking lot outside the stadium to the locker room. Now they will line up and march to the stadium along what’s known as the Garnet Way that starts in the Farmers Market. The team bus will drop off players at 2 hours and 20 minutes before kickoff for what will be called the Gamecock Walk.
4. It takes a village
USC has set up an area, known as the Gamecock Village, at the corner of Bluff Road and National Guard roads for live music, games, a souvenir tent and corporate sponsor booths. Fans can get photos with team mascot Cocky or watch other college games until a half-hour before kickoff. The team’s pregame radio show also will be stationed at the village.
5. Strike up the band
USC’s marching band has grown to 320 members, up nearly 30 percent in the past two years and the largest in more than a decade. The band will parade through the Farmers Market less than two hours before kickoff and will perform with the cheerleaders at the Gamecock Village before heading into the stadium.
6. Opening the apron
Work has begun to ease crowding for fans walking around the stadium. The Farmers Market allowed USC to move some tailgaters and will drop the number of parked cars from 500 to 120. Parking will remain for police and fire/rescue crews as well as suite ticket-holders and fans who have donated more than $1 million over their lifetime to athletics. The school is moving some of the parking to the corners of the apron and is moving television production trucks from the west side of the stadium to the more roomy area near the electronic sign at Bluff Road and George Rogers Boulevard.
7. On the record
New USC marks added on the outside of the stadium ramps are head coach Steve Spurrier’s season record 11 wins from this past year and wide receiver Alshon Jeffery’s career-high 3,042 receiving yards and 23 touchdown receptions.
8. Fried chicken
Want some fried chicken with that football Saturday at Williams-Brice Stadium? It's not just for tailgating anymore as Bojangles' brings its chicken and fries inside the stadium. Fans can find Cajun filet sandwiches, seasoned fries and Chicken Supremes tenderloins at two new concession stands. One is on the home side of the stadium, and the other is near the new video board in the north end zone.