With 72 hours until kickoff, the Magnolia Rental and Sales crew continues to install the student party sections in Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.
Gil Bridges, owner of Magnolia Rental and Sales, the company providing the tents for the student party area, said the crew will be on a tight deadline for the home opener this weekend as they’ve only had a few weeks to plan and build the section. The company has not installed cooling fans, televisions and charging stations as of 5 p.m. on Wednesday.
Ole Miss’s push to improve fan experience in Vaught-Hemingway Stadium in response to falling season and student ticket sales has been a long and complicated one for the university.
The biggest change for the students was the revealing of new student party decks. The temporary platforms presented in early August would hold 800 fans at the top of the stands in the north end zone with cooling fans, televisions and charging stations.
However, soon after the news of alcohol sales in the stadium being approved by the university, Ole Miss Athletics announced modifications to the original party decks. Capacity for the decks increased from 800 to over 2,400 and the area would be entirely general admission with no lottery for student groups as originally planned.
In the last few months, Ole Miss has announced several different moves to give fans a more entertaining experience during football games in the 2019 season.
The university has confirmed fewer on-field presentations, 15 new concession areas with new partners, enhanced Coca-Cola Rebel Fan Fest and, most notably, alcohol sales in the final three home games of the season.
“There is no question that our students are absolutely critical to creating a home-field advantage at the Vaught, and we look forward to giving them an experience that makes them want to get there early and stay until the end,” Interim Athletic Director Keith Carter said in a statement.
When approached with questions about the new party section, Associate AD for Marketing and Fan Experience Jason List directed further questions to the athletics communications office, who directed us to the official statement released on Friday.
According to that statement, the modifications were made after it was evident the original construction plans would cause safety issues for students.
“In regards to the platforms, safety concerns were identified during the construction that forced a change in plans,” Carter said. “Safety will always be our top priority, and we will never compromise on that. Fortunately, these alternate plans will actually allow us to keep the same amenities and accommodate more students.”
Ole Miss released another statement on Wednesday revealing survey results that put Ole Miss among the top schools in the SEC for fan experience. That survey also maintained that full amenities would be included in the decks starting with the Arkansas game. The survey was sent to football season ticket holders in December of 2018.
“Our mission will always be to deliver the best game day in college sports, and we are committed to maintaining our status as a ‘bucket list’ experience,” said Deputy Athletics Director Michael Thompson. “These surveys have generated invaluable data for improving fan satisfaction over the years, and we are grateful for the insight that Rebel Nation has provided us by participating.”