Business Affairs Departments Come Together as One for Saturdays in the Swamp

The University of Florida is not only ranked the No. 1 public institution on the 2024 Wall Street Journal’s Best U.S. Colleges, it’s also home to Gator athletics one of the most iconic sports programs in the country. Often referred to as an ‘everything school’ Gators men’s and women’s sports are admired worldwide.   

During Saturdays in the Fall, 90 thousand fans flock to campus to attend sold-out games at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium and the campus fills with tailgaters and fans dressed in orange and blue.   

What you may not see at first glance if at all is the hundreds of staff working tirelessly behind the scenes to make these events possible. In collaboration with the University Athletic Association (UAA), Business Affairs plays an instrumental role in the planning and execution of home games. For each home game, Business Affairs departments work together to ensure that fans have the best experience possible while maintaining a safe environment for all. 

Game day preparation 

Without the University of Florida Police Department (UFPD) game days would simply not be possible. Lt. Scott Summers has worked for UFPD for 27 years, has led the Special Events Division for five, and is a lifelong Gator fan. Lt. Summers coordinates interdepartmental functions and connects with other public safety agencies such as the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office, Alachua County Fire Rescue, Gainesville Fire Rescue, Gainesville Police Department, and Florida Highway Patrol. “At UFPD, we prioritize fan safety while also making sure everyone has a good experience,” says Lt. Summers. The efforts of UFPD are significant as an influx of traffic, with nearly 100,000 people coming in and out of campus on game days. This doesn’t include those visiting UF Health. UFPD works with traffic engineers on traffic patterns and Transportation and Parking Services (TAPS) on intersection traffic control. UFPD’s commitment to traffic safety was recently acknowledged as they were awarded first place at the annual Florida Law Enforcement Liaison (LEL) Traffic Safety Challenge. Additionally, during the Fall semester, UFPD hosts community events including a Tailgating for Safety event to educate the campus community on how to stay healthy and safe during and after tailgating events.  

During the month of August, UFPD and UF Department of Emergency Management (UFDEM) work almost daily to develop, review, and update the Public Safety Game Day Plan for each season. The plan unifies operations among all public safety agencies clarifying roles and responsibilities around Gator football games. The recently opened UF Public Safety Building has streamlined the collaboration process between UFPD and UFDEM as the two departments are now housed under one roof. Each game week, UFDEM facilitates the development of an Incident Action Plan with input from all public safety agencies to document operational assignments and event-specific information. The two groups also coordinate with Facilities Services and Business Affairs Technical Services (BATS) during the process, which has numerous crews active for each game.   

UFPD along with the other partner public safety agencies do an outstanding job of coordinating that planning process while keeping a focus on fan safety and security. “The teamwork of everyone involved makes it all possible,” says Kenneth Allen, Director of Emergency Management. 

Another major contributor is the Physical Security department which continuously evaluates the best safety and security practices for athletic venues. Physical Security staff research and make recommendations to existing video management system hardware that directly impacts coverage during game days while collaborating with UFPD, BATS, and Facilities Services to improve game day operations.   

Facilities Services game day support is planned and coordinated well in advance of the season by its Work Management team with any additional needs dealt with as they arise throughout the season. Their team takes pride in ensuring they support all other Business Affairs departments along with UAA. For each home game, preparations begin on Friday which includes locating utilities for tailgating vendors, temporarily fencing off high profile landscaped areas to minimize any damages, and distributing recycling and trash receptacles across campus to tailgate areas. On game day, the Grounds team begins early in the morning to provide traffic barricades across campus to support the UFPD’s efforts to direct traffic.

Additionally, the Environmental Health and Safety (EH&S) Fire Safety team starts weeks prior to the football season reviewing all systems at the stadium from the smoke control, fire alarm panels, voice evacuation systems, fire sprinklers, to the kitchen suppression system, and fire extinguishers. They inspect the fireworks displays for night games and the on-field pyrotechnic display to ensure safe operations. They also are involved with tent inspection on the North lawn of the Reitz Union, O’Connell Center, and the North end zone lawn. 

Game day transportation  

Starting on Friday mornings and lasting through the end of the game, the O’Connell Center operates the booster and staff parking lots. Their staff works closely with UAA to ensure boosters have access to their reserved parking areas. Since they don’t know the time of the game until 10 days prior agility is key especially when night games require supervisors to work up to 14 hours. Hydration and general safety are their number one concerns. 

Transportation and Parking Services (TAPS) responsibilities include administering the Motor Home Parking Program in which RV owners purchase reserved parking spaces for the season. TAPS also operates Gator Lift shuttles to assist disabled, elderly, and mobility-challenged fans in getting to and from the stadium and works with UFPD and the O’Connell Center in support of traffic control.  

Additionally, Planning Design and Construction considers the timing of construction and road closures to minimize impact during game day weekends. 

Pre-game festivities and tailgating 

The UF Bookstore and Gator Sports Shop provide several experiences and activities around campus on home game days to help enhance the fan experience. Game day support begins on Friday nights at the Celebration Pointe “Chomp the Block” event. By offering extended bookstore hours on game day weekends, they welcome all fans to visit the bookstores before and after kickoff. They also often offer pop-up locations at the UF Fan Fest outside the O’Connell Center, Emerson Alumni Hall, the UF Law campus, and several spots located in and around Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.  

Tara Hollow, Operations Manager of Policies and Permitting in the Office of the Vice President for Business Affairs assists departments, colleges, and student groups in navigating the rules for tailgating events and guides them through the event permitting process. She has day-to-day interactions with UFPD, Environmental Health and Safety, and Business Services to help mitigate risk at large campus events. “My goal is to help people host a successful event while navigating policy and keeping the safety of event guests a top priority,” says Tara. She also works with the Facilities Services Work Management team, Transportation and Parking Services (TAPS) for assistance with special parking requests, and the O’Connell Center for the Gator Fan Fest.  

The O’Connell Center is open prior to kick-off as an air-conditioned space where fans can use restrooms. UAA staff also use the space to assist with digital ticketing issues and other ticket-related problems. Additionally, the O’Connell Center staff’s technical team provides power and audio for the FanFest activities on the lawn outside the building, as well as various tailgate activities on campus hosted by colleges and the President’s office.   

Business Services ensures Florida Fresh Dining outlets are open and fully staffed. Depending on the game, the dining team may have upwards of 200 employees in multiple locations across campus. Palm and Pine Catering supports tailgate tenting catering menus and any special events on campus. An example would be the 500 Utah fans who held a pregame meal in the Reitz Union last year. Florida Fresh Dining is open to all students, faculty, staff, and game day fans as well.


After every home game, UFPD and UFDEM collect information from each public safety agency, internal and external, to note improvement items to implement. EH&S places the fire alarms back in normal operations and begins preparing for the next operation period. On both game day and the day proceeding, the Facilities Services Grounds team continues to pick up trash and recycling boxes along with any debris to ensure the campus is ready to open for business Monday. 

These collective efforts exemplify the Business Affairs mission and commitment to safety and service for the Gator Nation. 

Below are some tips and resources for game days:  
  • Plan for extra travel time  
    • Give yourself ample time to travel to campus.  
    • Visit the campus closures website for up-to-date information on road closures.  
    • Check out the Gator Aider RTS game ride transportation resource.
    • Follow this link for more information about game day parking.   
  • If your game day event needs permitting, when in doubt refer to sections 4.1 and 4.1(a) of the Use of University Space policy. If you want to receive communications regarding the rules and helpful information on permitting, please join Tara’s listserv.  
  • Check out this link for game day tailgating rules.
  • On game days, Florida Fresh Dining is open to students, faculty, staff, and visitors! View dining hours of operations and menus here. 
  • Check out the UF bookstore which has extended hours leading up to the game! 
  • Fans can still secure seats for the remaining home games in The Swamp. Click here to see which ticket option best suits you.