The inaugural White Water Classic at the renovated Garrett-Harrison Stadium on Saturday has some folks in Phenix City fired up and buzzing with excitement, officials said Thursday.
“It’s going to introduce Phenix City to something totally different,” said City Manager Wallace Hunter. “It’s going to be nice.”
The 3 p.m. kickoff between Tuskegee University and Albany State University returns college football to Phenix City for the first time since the NCAA Division III national championship game, the Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl, was played at the stadium from 1973-89.
Phenix City had only six to eight weeks to plan the Division II football game after agreeing to pay Tuskegee University $100,000 to move its home game. The renovated stadium has about $2.5 million in improvements over the last seven years. Recent upgrades include $800,000 for artificial playing surface, a new scoreboard and other features.
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Todd Hughes, director of the city’s Parks and Recreation Department, said the city has been approved by the fire department to get 10,000 people into the stadium, including 8,000 in arena seating and another 2,000 standing in the end zone.
“Everybody we spoke to from the Tuskegee coaches to the alumni, everybody says this is going to be a huge game for the area,” Hughes said. “It’s going to be a blowout. People are going to come from all over to see this game.”
In addition to the money to secure the game, a contract requires Phenix City to provide hotel rooms for Tuskegee, transportation for the band and football team to Phenix City, some meals and cost for game officials.
Hughes said the city has 36 double rooms and some singles for the coaching staff. A charter bus from Tuskegee arrives by midday Friday.
Steve Smith, finance director for the city, said Phenix City budgeted $150,000 to hold the event but hopes to generate $185,000 to $190,000 in revenue. “It’s coming along very well,” he said. “We’ve been able to run a little bit under what we anticipated as far as budgeting purposes.”
The number of tickets sold for the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference match-up was unavailable but Smith noted that sales have been brisk and there’s also entertainment at the Phenix City Amphitheater.
“We got events planned all that day Saturday and stuff for the kids as well as adults,” he said. “We are really looking forward to it.”
If the game attracts 6,000 fans, Smith said the city will be slightly over the break-even point. “We anticipate in the 8,000 range,” he said.
Hughes said tailgating for the game starts at 4 p.m. Friday in Idle Hour Park near the stadium. “You will be able to park at the bottom of Riverchase Drive and then all tailgating will be around the stadium in the park,” he said.
Anyone going to the game should use Riverchase Drive and Airport Road instead of Summerville Road. There will be plenty of food vendors inside and outside the stadium.
Smith said the city would have preferred to start events on today throughout the city but didn’t have enough time. “There is only so much you can do going on a six to eight-week period,” he said. “We had this but we will have a full year to plan next year. We are really excited about that.”