Fans attending the South Carolina football game at Williams-Brice Stadium on Sunday shouldn’t see any changes, according to Richland County sheriff Leon Lott.
“Nothing is different. It will be a normal ballgame,” Lott said Sunday morning, noting that traffic, parking and security for the 2:30 p.m. game should flow as normal, with the same protocols in place as any other game.
The Gamecocks (2-3, 1-3 SEC) and Bulldogs (3-2, 1-2) are playing a day later than expected because of concerns caused by Hurricane Matthew. The game, which will be televised on SEC Network, was originally scheduled to be played at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday. But safety concerns forced a temporary postponement.
Lott said there should be no hurricane-related issues on Sunday and his force was set up before 8 a.m.
“The traffic patterns are the same. All travel routes to Columbia are open,” said Lott, adding there are no issues with road closures, power outages or downed trees for fans coming to the game. His only request was for patience from fans entering Williams-Brice. “I’d say for those coming to the game, to come early and be patient.”
Lott and the Richland County Sheriff’s Department have taken charge of handling today’s game after Gov. Nikki Haley said the state wouldn’t be able to provide its normal security because of greater needs in dealing with Hurricane Matthew. Haley said the school was told Wednesday the state wouldn’t be able to spare personnel to help with a football game. State troopers routinely help with traffic at Williams-Brice Stadium, which seats about 80,000.
“The 100 to 200 troopers that they usually request or need would not be available to them,” Haley said. “They know what they are required to have. They are very conscious of safety.”
USC officials didn’t want to relocate or reschedule the game beyond this weekend. Athletic director Ray Tanner acted quickly to ensure the appropriate police presence.
“Coach Tanner asked me if we could do it, and we normally have 75 people working games, so we increased that,” said Lott, saying he added 60 additional deputies to help with the game, along with assistance from other area law-enforcement agencies. “We have the manpower and the game will be fully forced.”
Among the things that aren’t changing is the prohibition of most bags. Lott said no pocketbooks or backpacks are allowed, that those attending the game will only be permitted to bring in clear bags.
“We will do everything we can to make it a normal game day experience,” Tanner said earlier this week. “We are hopeful we are in a very good situation Sunday, especially weather wise.”
Tanner should be pleased with the weather for the game. The forecast calls for a sunny day, with a high near 78, and North wind 10 to 15 mph, according to the National Weather Service.
Possibly the only thing that will be different in Williams-Brice Stadium is part of the stadium. At Williams-Brice, a few letters from “GAMECOCKS” above the press box area came off in the storm.
USC executive associate athletic director Charles Bloom said staff inspected the stadium to make sure it was safe for fans and the teams.
Lott’s message to fans was positive and simple.
“Come enjoy the game,” Lott said. “It’s a beautiful day and this game will help in the recovery and help get life back to normal.”