With kickoff for the South Carolina/Georgia game resolved after days of speculation, area hotels stayed busy dealing with football fans and hurricane evacuees.
The Southeastern Conference and the University of South Carolina announced late Thursday that the Gamecocks’ home game against SEC foe Georgia has been moved from Saturday night to Sunday afternoon. Kickoff is set for 2:30 p.m., and the game will be carried on the SEC TV network.
The SEC and USC said the potential impact of Hurricane Matthew on the area on Saturday spurred the decision to play Sunday at Williams-Brice Stadium.
“It is in the best interest of safety to play the game on Sunday rather than Saturday night,” SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey said in a statement. “I appreciate the cooperation of the schools who worked closely to make the appropriate operational adjustments in order to accommodate this change in the schedule.”
Keeping the home game means USC won’t forfeit an anticipated $4.45 million in net ticket sales. USC lost a projected $3.8 million in ticket sales when last October’s flood forced a scheduled home game against LSU on Oct. 8 to be moved to Baton Rouge, La.
“Based on the current forecast and expected weather conditions, as well as information from local law enforcement agencies, at this time the university is confident in our ability to host the game on Sunday at Williams-Brice Stadium,” the university said in statement.
The school said that the Columbia campus, closed since Wednesday, will resume normal operations on Sunday.
Gov. Nikki Haley said earlier that the 100 to 200 S.C. Highway Patrol troopers normally called on to handle traffic control and security during a home game would not be available. The university, Haley said, would have to tap other resources including local law enforcement.
“We will be able to staff traffic, security and other game day operations,” the university said. “The safety of everyone affected by the storm and the minimization of the impact on emergency personnel were the most important factors considered in making the decision.”
Bus service for students and other patrons to the game from Carolina Coliseum will experience some delays due to buses supporting the evacuation effort, the university said.
The university also called on Gamecock fans who do not need previously reserved hotel rooms to release those reservations while urging hotels to adapt their standard regulations to the changing situation.
“We also encourage hoteliers to be flexible with their standard two-night minimum in order to help accommodate both hurricane evacuees and fans,” the university said.
At the Hampton Inn in the Vista, assistant general manager Buddy Mellinger said that was being done.
“We took all the restrictions off,” Mellinger said.
Mellinger said there had been some cancelations after the game rescheduling, but that evacuees still needing rooms have left the hotel, at full occupancy today and Saturday, with a waiting list of about 20 people.
“(Most) people that had rooms for the game just held on,” Mellinger said. “They weren’t sure what was going on.”
There hasn’t been a rush to extend stays through Sunday, Mellinger said, as the Hampton Inn’s noon checkout time fits with the schedules of fans going to the afternoon game.
“It’s been kind of hectic, but we’ve been good,” Mellinger said.
Columbia Regional Business Report editor Chuck Crumbo contributed to this article.