Opening game-day activities for the 2011 Texas A&M Aggie football season will be like no other in school history. Kickoff for the nationally televised sold-out game will be on Sunday — unprecedented for the Aggies. The game will begin at 6:30 p.m. on the Fox Sports Networks when the Aggies’ take on one of their historic gridiron rivals, Southern Methodist University, with the rejuvenated Mustangs coming off a season that culminated in their selection to play in the 2010 Armed Forces Bowl.
Aggie expectations — by the media and certainly by the students, former student and other fans — are at fever pitch, with the veteran team coming off a nine-win season that produced a Big 12-South co-championship and a Cotton Bowl appearance. Adding to the high expectations are those top-10 pre-season rankings for the Aggies, including an 8th-place ranking by the Associated Press, the highest in more than a decade.
One thing is for sure: Kyle Field will be rocking Sunday evening in a fashion that has prompted Sports Illustrated to rate it as the top college football game-day environment in the nation, with Fox Sports chiming in by listing Kyle Field as one of the nation’s 10 best college football stadiums. The 83,002-seat stadium is expected to have an overflow crowd (approximately 86,000) when the Aggies take on SMU, renewing a rivalry that dates back to 1920 when the Mustangs joined the Southwest Conference. That crowd assessment is based in part on a record number of season tickets having been sold for the upcoming season — almost 45,000 to date, which is approximately 4,000 more than ever before. There is also a record 30,000 tickets for students, who will pack the east stands.
Athletic department officials are urging fans to hydrate before the game and take other heat-related precautions because the temperature is expected to be in the high 90s. The department is providing several “cool zones” at the stadium. Their locations and other related information can be viewed at http://tamunews.tamu.edu/2011/08/31/aggie-football-is-heating-up/.
While lots of action is anticipated on the field and with 12th Man Aggie Spirit on display in the stands, the festivities will be building up long before kickoff. It will begin with Midnight Yell Practice Saturday night, where upwards of 30,000 Aggies are expected to converge on Kyle Field. Sports Illustrated rates Midnight Yell Practice as one of the nation’s top three game-related events.
Aggies are urged to maroon out — that is wear the team colors of maroon and white — Kyle Field for this and other football games. T-shirts are on sale for $8 through Friday in front of the Koldus Building and also through http://maroonout.tamu.edu/node/16. Class Councils coordinate the annual sale of more than 50,000 of these shirts so that Aggies can show their support of the 12th Man at home football games. The proceeds will benefit several student organizations.
The increasingly popular Aggie Fan Zone in the plaza and street at the north end of Kyle Field will be in full swing Sunday afternoon, with scores of vendors serving up a variety of tasty treats complemented by a host of displays and activities. The area is expected to be so packed that the university’s safety and athletic officials have restricted vehicular traffic around the areas, as shown at http://www.aggieathletics.com/ViewArticle.dbml?&DB_OEM_ID=27300&ATCLID=205238042 Additionally, thousands of tailgaters will set up at designated areas in areas east of Kyle Field and around Reed Arena, beginning at noon Saturday (in keeping with the policy of allowing tailgating to begin at noon on the day before the day of the game). Tailgating information is available at http://tailgating.tamu.edu/index.html.
Because the game is not on the usual day, special rules are in place for those coming in recreational vehicles. Also, in spite of the Labor Day holiday on Monday (Sept. 5), the university will be open and classes will be in session. RVs in Lots 50, 88 and 12th Man R (Lot 74) lot must vacate those lots before 7 a.m. Monday. Transportation Services officials say RV owners who are unable to depart by Monday morning can move Sunday night to Lot 100f or Lot 100g located on the south side of Reed Arena two hours after the game. RV customers at Olsen RV Park, Penberthy RV Park and Lot 100e must vacate by 10 a.m. Monday. For more information about RV parking, go to http://transport.tamu.edu/specialevents/rv.aspx.
To help alleviate some of the parking and traffic congestion in the area, Transportation Services has set up several programs for fans. The “Get to the Grid” program offers free game day shuttles. Other plans are in place for pedestrian and vehicle flow before and after the game. To find out more about these plans as well as available visitor parking, go to http://transport.tamu.edu/specialevents/sports.aspx.
In the most recent economic impact study conducted by the Bryan-College Station Convention & Visitors Bureau, Texas A&M athletic events were shown to have an annual impact of $116 million, with the vast majority of that total attributed to football games. Athletic department officials say that figure will almost certainly increase this year and in the future.