Aug. 27, 2008 — Last weekend, University of Virginia students invaded Charlottesville's streets and settled in for a nine-month occupation.
This Saturday, the invasion will go to a whole new level with the arrival of a band of Trojans.
The best defense: wear orange and allow yourself plenty of time to get around town.
A crowd of more than 60,000 — roughly the size of the populations of Dale City or Centreville in Northern Virginia — is expected to converge on Scott Stadium Saturday afternoon for U.Va.'s season-opening football game against the Trojans from the powerful University of Southern California, ranked in the preseason as one of the top five teams in the nation.
Kickoff is at 3:30 p.m., but traffic is expected to begin thickening many hours earlier. U.Va. athletics officials recommend that ticketholders to arrive at the stadium at least 30 minutes before kickoff in order to minimize entrance delays that inevitably crop up during home openers.
They also urge fans to wear orange both Friday and Saturday. Friday is "College Colors Day 2008" nationwide and coincides with U.Va.'s annual "Paint the Town Orange" pep rally at the Downtown Amphitheater, scheduled for 8 p.m. The rally features appearances by head football coach Al Groh, the Cavalier Marching Band and the cheerleaders.
Saturday is "Orange Out Scott Stadium" day. Gates open at 1:30, and just inside, fans will receive free "Power of Orange Rally Towels" to wave throughout the season.
There are a few new rules in the stands this year. Still cameras with lenses less than 6 inches long are allowed in Scott Stadium, but flash photography and stands/tripods are prohibited. Video cameras are not allowed in the stadium.
Also, all banners, signs and flags are now prohibited. "The policy is intended to support and promote sportsmanship and a positive game-day environment for all fans in attendance at athletics events," according to an Athletic Department announcement.
Outside the gates, the Virginia Football Fan Fest has changed locations and is expanding. Now located across Alderman Road from the Aquatics and Fitness Center, the tailgating alternative features games, food and live entertainment, plus another pep rally, scheduled for 1:55 p.m. This week's featured band is Intechnicolor, beginning at 12:30 p.m.
Free parking on a first-come, first-served basis can be found in the lots surrounding University Hall and the John Paul Jones Arena, on North Grounds and at the Fontaine Research Park. Closer in, fans can pay $10 per game to park in the Emmet/Ivy, Central Grounds or Health System garages, with discounts available for purchasing a season pass. All other Central Grounds lots are reserved for holders of Virginia Athletics Foundation passes.
Alternatively, fans can park in the Market and Water Street parking garages downtown ($6 per vehicle) and take advantage of a $5-per-person roundtrip shuttle to
Engineers Way, a short walk from the stadium. This year, passengers must present a ticket for their return trip, as well; one-way passengers and those who have lost their original tickets can purchase $5 tickets at the bus loading lines.
Free parking for those with disabilities is located at The Park, near the corner of Arlington Boulevard and Massie Road, with a free shuttle to the stadium. A DMV-issued handicap placard or license plate is required for admission to the lot.
Traffic restrictions will begin two hours before game time. Alderman, McCormick and Stadium roads will be closed to all but service vehicles and parking permit-holders. Fontaine Avenue traffic will be one way, inbound-only, before the game, with the lanes reversed after the game.