By Errol Castens
OXFORD – The University of Mississippi’s home opener against Southeast Missouri State University didn’t much challenge the Rebel football squad, but it strained parking and traffic management.
Texas A&M visits Ole Miss on Saturday, its team and the crowd it attracts will likely test both logistics and gridiron capabilities.
“It’ll be a whole different crowd, a much bigger crowd this time,” said Oxford Police Maj. James Owens. “We’ve changed the way we’re going to try to get people in and out for the game.”
AM 1630, accessible only in the immediate Oxford area, will explain parking, traffic and related information as fans arrive in town.
Ole Miss limited on-campus parking to people with game-day permits after illegal parking blocked access in places for emergency vehicles and people with disabilities. As a result, even the recent game crowd filled satellite parking areas and overcrowded shuttles.
“We added two additional lots for game day – Northwest Mississippi Community College on Belk Boulevard and near the airport on McElroy Drive,” said Isaac Astill, UM director of parking and transportation. “Between those two we’ll have 950 additional spaces, and we’ll have additional buses as well.”
Both parking and shuttles will be free at NWCC as well as Ole Miss’ Whirlpool site (intended mainly for game-day workers) and the Jackson Avenue Center. Parking will be free at Oxford Conference Center (Highway 7 at Sisk Avenue), Oxford Middle School (Martin Luther King Drive at Washington Avenue), Oxford Activity Center (Price Street at Molly Barr Road) and the McElroy site, but shuttles are $5 round-trip.
Perhaps the biggest change will be postgame traffic management. Vehicles leaving the campus area on Gertrude Ford Boulevard, Sorority Row and Rebel Drive will be directed onto Molly Barr Road to connect to Highway 7.
“The majority of traffic is going to be routed up to Molly Barr Road. We found it was underutilized on game days, and it’s an easy route away from campus,” Owens said.
While the Square is a short walk or Double-Decker bus ride from Ole Miss, those driving downtown from campus will go north on Molly Barr to Price Street, which tees into North Lamar Boulevard, or northeast on Molly Barr to Highway 7 and then south to University Avenue.
“It’s easy to navigate, because the signage explains it well,” Owens said.
One recent change for motorists to remember is that parking on the Square is limited to three hours. Game-day violations will cost $50, $75 and $100 for the first three violations, respectively, with booting and towing enforced for subsequent offenses.
For more information, visit www.olemissfb.com or www.oxfordms.net/visitors/gameday-shuttle-service.html.