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Tailgating policies differ at ‘The Swamp’

Students going to the USF football game Saturday at the University of Florida may be surprised to find that their traditional tailgate festivities aren’t welcomed.


“If you are tailgating with alcohol, you are in violation with a Gainesville city ordinance,” said Robert Wagner, administrative support lieutenant for the UF Police Department.


This is because Florida Field, UF’s football stadium, is located on public property and legal trouble could result from possessing an open container of alcohol in the parking lot, stadium or outside of designated areas like bars and restaurants.


According to the Gainesville City Ordinance Section 4-4(b) (2), “it shall be unlawful for any person to consume or to have in his/her possession any alcoholic beverages within the stands, stadium, or grounds of Florida Field, which is the stadium located on the campus of the University of Florida.”


The ordinance also applies to streets, sidewalks and publicly owned parking facilities — differing slightly from USF’s regulations at Raymond James Stadium, which still prohibit underage drinking and disorderly behavior.


Wagner said the ordinance has been in place for as long as she remembers.


“Any student who is not 21 years of age is prohibited from consuming alcoholic beverages at Raymond James Stadium,” Dean for Students Kevin Banks said. “We expect our students to adhere to local, state and University policies regarding the legal use and consumption of alcohol.”


USF, in coordination with the Tampa Sports Authority and law enforcement, launched the “Be Respect-A-Bull” campaign in 2008 to alleviate underage drinking and disorderly behavior at football games. According to its website, the campaign includes increasing the number of patrols during games and removing persons shouting profanity from the stadium.


Like USF, UF has planted “plain-clothed” officers at its games to crack down on unlawful alcohol consumption, Wagner said.


He said the officers will primarily focus on those who appear underage and those with large vessels of alcohol so they can prioritize their resources for the more than  90,000 fans expected in the stadium and the 10,000 to 20,000 expected outside.


Getting caught with an open container of alcohol in Gainesville could result in up to six months in jail or a $500 fine, he said.


Matthew Brookens, a junior majoring in business marketing, said he has gone to UF football games for years and has witnessed rowdy fans.


“Don’t go over (there) being all cocky,” he said. “(I’ve) seen that before in some games. Respect the fact that you’re in their house.”


Brookens is one of 6,000 fans who purchased tickets allotted to USF by UF. Of the tickets, 3,100 were reserved for donors and season-ticket holders, 1,370 for the Athletic Department, and 200 for sponsors, leaving only 1,330 tickets for USF students, said Jeremy Sharpe, assistant athletic director of media communications.


Tickets went on sale Aug. 9 but sold out quickly, he said.


The USF Student Government (SG) will provide three buses to transport students to and from the game. Zachary Johnson, SG chief financial officer, said he will help load the buses.


“Playing UF is one of those things we’ve always been looking forward to,” Johnson said. “I’m sure the energy will be through the roof.”


USF students who are attending the game must be at the Sun Dome parking lot at 7 a.m. to ride the buses.


— Additional reporting by Divya Kumar.