DeSantis ruling gives Florida and Georgia option to increase TIAA Bank Field capacity

City says in release that crowd allowed in for 88th Florida-Georgia game in Jacksonville will be 'limited'

Garry Smits
Florida Times-Union
This year's Florida-Georgia game on Nov. 7 may or may not include the usual mass tailgate party in city-owned parking lots
  • Florida-Georgia weekend will not include an RV City or Hall of Fame Luncheon
  • Georgia coach Kirby Smart has a three-game winning streak over the Gators
  • Florida coach Dan Mullen has beaten Georgia once as a head coach

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has given sports teams the ability to pack as many fans as they want into their stadiums under a clarification his office issued on Wednesday about the Phase 3 re-opening of the state.

What will that mean for the Florida-Georgia game on Nov. 7 at TIAA Bank Field?

At this point, no one knows, although the city of Jacksonville said in a release on Friday that "the game will take place with limited capacity."

Two of the state's NFL teams aren't taking any chances. The Jaguars and Miami Dolphins have already announced they will not increase capacity for their home games beyond the 25 percent level at which they operated to start the season — a bit less than 17,000 for the Jaguars and about 13,000 for the Dolphins.

The Tampa Bay Bucs have yet to weigh in.

But officials at the University of Florida and the University of Georgia are currently not saying whether they will seek more capacity for their 98th meeting overall and 88th in Jacksonville.

Photos:2019 Florida-Georgia game at TIAA Bank Field

UF manages the game but the city owns the stadium. The city's stance is that the schools have the decision, given the governor's ruling.

Florida director of communications Skip Powers, who is also the university's point man on the game against Georgia, issued a statement that said: "We will continue to follow the guidance provided by our experts at UF Health as well as campus officials."

The statement doesn't specifically address a neutral-site game in Jacksonville but Powers declined to elaborate.

Georgia coach Kirby Smart celebrates his 2019 victory over the Florida Gators, his third in a row since taking over the Bulldogs.

A request for comment from Josh Brooks, the University of Georgia's deputy athletic director for operations, was not immediately returned.

If Florida and Georgia had to play at TIAA Bank Field at 25 percent capacity, each school would get around 8,500 tickets. Since the stadium was rebuilt in time for the Jaguars first season in 1995, capacity has been more than 80,000 (with additional bleachers added).

Last year, 84,789 watched Georgia beat Florida 24-17.

There isn't enough time to install temporary bleachers (that project needs to begin six weeks out) so at most, the two schools could go as high as more than 67,000 fans, or about 33,500 tickets apiece.

However, the universities would have to decide about optics during a COVID-19 pandemic that is not over, without a vaccine in sight.

Georgia came under fire after last week's home game against Auburn in which there appeared to be more than the 20,524 the school allowed in for the game, many of whom were not wearing masks or socially distancing.

Florida announced 15,120 for last week's home opener against South Carolina.

Regardless of the decision on the number of fans to allow in the stadium, this year's Florida-Georgia game will still be vastly different.

"We're excited about it ... glad to keep the tradition going this year," said Daryl Joseph Jacksonville's director of Parks, Recreation and Community Services. "It's going to be about the football."

But it will not be the World's Largest Cocktail Party, at least in city-owned lots.

The Times-Union reported on Thursday and the city confirmed on Friday that there will be no RV City and no Florida-Georgia Hall of Fame Luncheon. The city also said there will be no "Bold City Bash."

The city's release said all other "ancillary events" will not take place and that complete game day safety policies will be announced closer to the game.

 "The annual Georgia-Florida Football Classic is one of our city's most well-known and celebrated traditions," said Mayor Lenny Curry in a statement. "We are both thankful and excited that we are able to carry on with the game this year. We have implemented and will continue to maintain regulations for the safety of all those attending. Nevertheless, we will ensure a fun and safe event as we celebrate this college football rivalry in our City."

The city Division of Sports and Entertainment will host six information and First Aid Zones within the sports complex and downtown Jacksonville, providing free assistance to fans that include first aid, transportation information and directions.

How much tailgating is allowed will be dependent on the eventual decision on stadium capacity but it's certain that past police estimates of around 100,000 people in and around the stadium on game days will be vastly smaller.

Florida Gators coach Dan Mullen is looking for his first victory over Georgia as the UF head coach.