While the Eagles opened their season a week ago with a 40-37 loss at Mercer, they will kick off at for the first time at Ken White Field on Saturday at noon, against Lindsey Wilson.
Athletic director Bill Popp said the campus is ready to be invaded by what is expected to be as many as 3,000 fans Saturday morning. He expects to find areas that can be improved for future games, but he feels a good plan is in place.
“The finishing touches are going up,” Popp said, after a meeting with those in charge of parking. “Everything we could dream of is on the plate. Whatever the mistakes are, we will figure them out and get through them. It’s going to be a blast. We are really looking forward to it.”
Last week, temporary bleachers were installed next to the field, and a new scoreboard was unveiled. Seat backs for the reserved seating section are in place and parking lots have been labeled.
“I don’t think we have missed anything yet,” Popp said. “We don’t have any shortcomings yet, but I think we will know if we have one once we get under way.”
Part of the plan includes as many as 150 staff, faculty and volunteers on site to assist on game days. While some will be involved with making sure that fans have a good experience, others will be responsible for areas such as clean-up.
The university has also partnered with the Cherokee County Sherriff’s Office to help with traffic control in and around the Waleska campus. Medical staff will also be on site.
“We feel like we have covered all bases,” Popp said.
Popp traveled to last week’s game at Mercer and said that while the scale of things in Macon was much larger, he was able to learn a few things. Most importantly is keeping fans, players and personnel hydrated.
“It’s hard to compare apples to oranges, but I saw some things that will help us watching crowd control and pre-game, post-game stuff on the field,” Popp said. “Making sure the officials are taken care of. Having people at the right spots to help folks.”
The traffic impact has also been a concern, but Popp downplayed that, saying it’s all about giving fans the best experience possible.
“Our goal is, when you drive through Waleska, you see some traffic, but not deathly traffic,” he said. “You see congestion to get into the parking lot. Hopefully, there will be some tailgating and folks having a good time.”
One area Popp isn’t stressing much is concessions. The on-campus food service staff will be providing food for games. He said it would be standard stadium food such as hamburgers, hot dogs, soft drinks, popcorn and candy.
While general-admission tickets are still available for Saturday’s game, they might not be for long. The Reinhardt athletic department believes that many students are waiting until the day of the game to pick up their free tickets, which could quickly deplete those remaining for sale.
“We haven’t accounted for a lot of our students because they either have to come (to the athletic offense) to pick them up or just go to the game with their student ID,” Popp said. “That is the big question mark.”
Overall, the university has sold more the $10,000 worth of tickets to games this season. Sports information director Jason Hanes said they are pleased with that number.
“For us, since we have never sold tickets to an athletic event, it’s a pretty huge number,” Hanes said.
Popp declined to announce the number of tickets that have been sold for the game until Saturday.
“We want to make a grand announcement of our attendance at the game,” he said. “So we are going to hold onto that information a little longer.”
General-admission tickets are $10 in advance, but will increase to $15 on the day of the game.
Though the game kicks off at noon, the festivities will begin sooner. Popp is inviting fans to come out for pregame warmups starting at 10:30 a.m. The Reinhardt band will also be performing.
“We want to have good character, a good time, a competitive game and a family atmosphere,” Popp said. “We want people to want to come back and do it again with us. We do it five times a year, so we want those same people to come five times.”