Game days in Tuscaloosa: The transformation from small town to frenzy  (2024)

CW / David Gray

Abby McCreary, Staff Reporter
August 17, 2022

In the middle of Alabama and in the heartland of SEC football sits the headquarters of the Crimson Tide fan base. Although just a little more than 100,000 people claim Tuscaloosa as home every year, during football season, ‘T-Town’ is home to anyone and everyone who sports the crimson and white. For seven Saturdays every fall, Crimson Tide fans roll into Tuscaloosa ready to remember better days, but Tuscaloosa residents are left to wonder about the state of their hometown.

Tuscaloosa resident and UA junior Avery Lake remembers how frustrating it was being a child during an Alabama home football game.

“There were four kids in my family so all of us getting tickets to go to the Alabama game just didn’t happen,” Lake said. “As a kid, I didn’t know any of these things so I’d ask, ‘Can we do this?’ and they’d say ‘No, not today.’ It was just not an option for the day […] There’s no hope in driving through campus or even around it, on a game day. Just don’t even try.”

According to UA Gameday maps, nearly two dozen roads are shut down every weekend for tailgating and campus celebrations, but this makes driving around on game day difficult. To prepare for fans coming from all directions, the UA Police Department has designed for most travelers to take one of four routes into the city. Those routes all lead to parking in different zones, but Lake said that Tuscaloosa residents often take part in the parking situation as well.

“My brothers were in Boy Scouts and so they would go to St. Francis [Catholic Church] and help park cars,” Lake said. “You get there super early in the morning and take the money from people and help them park somewhere. It doesn’t matter what your business is, [anyone] can benefit from game day.”

Although being a Crimson Tide fan is a constant for most Tuscaloosa residents, they prepare for football season with just as much gusto as everyone else. While Tuscaloosa may not seem like much from the outside, the home of The University of Alabama is rich in both history and pride for all residents. Giving up their city every Saturday to accommodate the crowds of fans coming from across the county, the state and even the country, then, is almost welcome.

Tuscaloosa resident and UA junior Katherine Weber said that living in Tuscaloosa simply makes game days better.

“Personally, I think being a resident of Tuscaloosa makes game days so special,” Weber said. “Just knowing that I grew up in the town of the team that has won 18 national championships is amazing.”

However, residents still have to put in a lot of work to get their city ready to welcome so many people every fall.

According to a UA News article, maintenance crews begin working on Bryant-Denny months before the first kickoff. These crews work on everything from plumbing to electricity, and everything in between, all to ensure that the stadium is prepared to accommodate the flood of fans pouring in to watch the Crimson Tide take on their latest opponent of the season.

According to the article, during the week of each home game the University of Alabama campus becomes home to “countless amenities,” including “325 portable toilets, 12 air-conditioned restroom trailers, 400 trash cans and 130 recycling containers.” Crews also provide resources to make tailgating as efficient and effortless as possible. Every Saturday, several crew members walk around campus to ensure that game day runs as smoothly and cleanly as possible.

After each game, the goal is to have the Quad and Tuscaloosa back to normal as soon as Sunday afternoon. On average, each game day produces more than 50 tons of garbage, meaning that the crews work hard to return Tuscaloosa to pregame standards. By Sunday, there is no evidence that the city’s population had doubled over the weekend.

But many still remember the mix of people who came to Tuscaloosa. Between high out-of-state enrollment at the University and a large national fanbase, Tuscaloosa is home to more than just Alabamians. While Tuscaloosa and Southern culture are obviously prominent, out-of-town visitors still bring their own ways and traditions, although Alabama football seems to be a top priority for everyone involved.

Lake said that even age changes the game day experience.

“Now that I’m in college, I’m walking with the crowd of college students […] it’s very different,” Lake said. “The language is different, what people are talking about, what the goal is, why you are there, it’s all totally different as opposed to me showing up with my dad as a little girl, wearing my Alabama cheer uniform. I was just there to hang out with my dad […] It really is for everyone. You can make it your own.”

While Lake remembers being transfixed by the cheer team, UA GameDay also provides inflatables in the tailgating area on the quad, making the gameday experience truly for everyone. Although kids might beg to come back to jump on inflatables, their parents keep returning to Tuscaloosa for far more.

Tuscaloosa may seem small outside of football season, but its traditions stay strong and relevant year-round. Every fall, though, they become even more prominent as tens of thousands of fans come back for games and seek mementos of their championship-caliber team.

Some fans buy a legendary yellowhammer drink from Gallettes before the game. Others head to Rama Jama’s to have breakfast surrounded by the Crimson Tide’s best moments, memorialized by the legendary Alabama decor. Other fans are simply happy with bringing home a tiny script A, whether in the form of a Koozie from a street vendor or a new sweatshirt from a local store.

It’s these small mementos and keepsakes that remind fans of the legendary traditions of Crimson Tide football and make Tuscaloosa much more than just a small town in the middle of Alabama. Although Tuscaloosa sits quiet most of the year, during football season it comes to life, using decades of Alabama history as a way for both local residents and out-of-town visitors to connect over keeping Tuscaloosa as the place where legends are made.

Questions or comments? Email Austin Hannon (Sports Editor) at[emailprotected]

Game days in Tuscaloosa: The transformation from small town to frenzy  (2024)

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