Gameday campus craziness engulfs Gainesville


People lined up for tables to watch Florida take on Ohio in the BCS championship game at the Swamp restaurant cheer as a TV crew passes. The Swamp is closing at 3 pm and re-opening at 4 pm for the game night crowd.

MORGAN PETROSKI/Special to The Sun
Published: Monday, January 8, 2007 at 6:04 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 8, 2007 at 6:04 p.m.

It seems the kindness of one Gator fan to another extends only so far maybe three rows back from the front of the line that formed early outside The Swamp Restaurant.

It was low-key combat there with a trampled mattress, jostling and plenty of personal-space invasion.

"It's been, like, kind of when the Berlin Wall fell," said University of Florida journalism major Meaghan Flynn of the pressure from behind.

But it was also enough fun that people were staying put, some after getting there the night before, in hopes of getting one of the 249 indoor spots or cramming into the patio.

And it was just part of the craziness, and preparation for big-time madness, expected tonight should the Gators beat Ohio State for the national football championship.

Those who were organized brought lawn chairs, air mattresses, playing cards and other games to wile away the hours. Lines snaked down W. University Avenue for those waiting to get into Gator City, Balls and The Salty Dog Saloon.

One group of students staked out their place in line outside of The Swamp restaurant beginning late Sunday afternoon. They chugged pitchers of beer.

The restaurant began letting students and others in about 3 p.m. with a cover charge of $10 each.

A fair number came from other cities to hang with friends in Gainesville and experience the scene.

"I wanted to come out here earlier but I couldn't get anybody together at 10 this morning. This is the place to go," said Kellyann McLaughlin, a Furman grad visiting her UF-student sister, at the back of the line. "If we get in, we'll stay. We have nothing else to do right now."

One Gator graduate, now living in Boston, flew to Gainesville over the weekend to participate in the gameday celebrations. Courtney Compagnone said she arrived at Gator City at 8:30 a.m. in the rain. Throughout the morning, friends stopped by to bring breakfast, rain gear and to take a shift in the line while the others took showers.

Leah Logue, an advertising major and friend of Flynn, was among the first in line and brought an air mattress for comfort. But a surge among the troops behind trampled it.

"We had an air mattress to be more cozy, and we put a big G on it, but it got trampled in the stampede," Logue said.

Gainesville Police Sgt. Keith Kameg said no incidents were reported as of Monday afternoon despite the large number of people milling around the University Avenue-17th Street party epicenter.

Kameg added police have a new crowd control device grease. Kameg said police want to keep anyone from repeating a dangerous stunt performed when UF won the basketball championship in April revelers climbing the light poles and sitting on the the cross-bar.

"They are being greased and it is a direct result of the basketball celebration," Kameg said. "They are 20 feet off the ground and over people. If they slip or fall, we're having to bring in emergency medical. This is solely to keep people from getting hurt."

Gina Hawkins of the Gainesville Public Works Department said it was decided to use PAM vegetable spray after some testing.

"That's what we all said PAM?" Hawkins said. "They are starting it from 7 feet up, so people will be surprised if they get up that high."

Hawkins added roll-off trash containers and crews are in position to begin cleaning immediately after the area clears.

Judging from the lay-long partying, crews will have a lot to clean.

"The beer here at the Swamp is cheaper than at the Salty Dog," Flynn said. "That hasn't happened since Neil Armstrong was on the moon."

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