From home to O'Dome, where to watch the game


Published: Friday, January 5, 2007 at 9:26 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 5, 2007 at 9:26 a.m.

The O'Connell Center on Monday will have all the trappings of an actual football game, from the pretzels and hot dogs at concession stands to the cheerleaders during the halftime show.

The basketball arena, which will simulcast the University of Florida Gators playing the Ohio State Buckeyes in the Tostitos BCS National Championship Game on four large video boards, will even have the ID checks familiar to anyone who has watched a football game in the student section of Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

"We know 12,000 people will fit in there, but the O'Connell Center won't accommodate all 50,000 students," said Dave Kratzer, UF's associate vice president for student affairs. "In order to anticipate the number of people watching the game broadcast, we're asking that the O'Connell Center be for University of Florida ID holders, which is students, faculty and staff."

With or without a Gator 1 card, game-watching options abound in Gainesville on Monday night. Sports bars, homes and offices throughout town will transform into virtual football stadiums, trying to capture the excitement of Glendale, Ariz., from 2,000 miles away.

Out partying

The Gainesville Police Department is holding strategy sessions this week to determine how best to handle game-night revelers.

So is the staff of Gator's Dockside, the Gator-themed sports bar and restaurant on Newberry Road.

Manager Melanie Beebe said the restaurant will hold at least one staff meeting before gameday.

"It's like a big brain strategy session figuring out what do and how fast we can do it to make things more efficient that night," Beebe said. "We're putting all the people we have on. We're getting security. We've been having big manager meetings, and we'll have a big staff meeting on Monday to make sure we're all on the same page."

In a policy tweak since hosting hundreds for the NCAA Basketball National Championship Game last year, Gator's Dockside is letting customers reserve tables Monday night.

Those who call ahead for tables will get arm bands at the door, and are guaranteed their table for the duration of the game. Service manager Hoss Rice said only 14 of the restaurant's 54 tables were still available as of Thursday afternoon.

The bar area will still be open for revelers without reservations.

"It's really going to feel like a stadium in here," Beebe said. "Everybody wants to be at the game, and we're doing everything we can to make it feel that way."

Gainesville Ale House is also tweaking its game-day strategy based on its crowd for the basketball championship game last year by allowing only parties of four or more people to sit in the restaurant's booths.

"We're hoping that helps with the crowd somewhat," said manager Jarrett Kenyon. "We're just trying to avoid having two people take up a whole booth for the whole night. Our capacity's 399, and I'm pretty sure we had a full house for the basketball championship. We expect a full house on Monday, too."

Partying in

Even Florida fans looking to avoid the bar scene are plotting ways to bring the excitement of Glendale to Gainesville.

Die-hard Gator fan Debbie Asbury, who works at Gainesville CPA firm James Moore & Co., said she tried for weeks to secure affordable game tickets, even entering a contest on a reggae radio station.

When nothing panned out, Asbury planned a game-viewing party at her house for Monday night.

Replicating the daytime excitement was tougher, but Asbury succeeded in getting permission to hold a lunchtime tailgate party at the office.

On Sunday, Asbury will plaster UF posters on her office's walls, deck the halls with orange and blue streamers and will even lay down Astroturf on the floors in preparation for the Monday afternoon cookout.

"My colleagues think I'm nuts," Asbury said. "Everyone's so excited about the game, but it's so hard to get tickets to go. I felt like, well, if I have to be at work, I'll at least make the best of it. It's a big day for Gator Nation, and we need to have some fun."

Amy Reinink can be reached at (352) 374-5088 or reinina@gvillesun.com.

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