MORGANTOWN — It takes months of planning to prepare for football season, said April Messerly, WVU associate athletics director.
Mountaineer Field at Milan Puskar Stadium has a capacity of 60,000, and Morgantown Fire Chief Mark Caravasos said about 50,000 people come into town for home football games.
“Every game day this becomes the largest city in the state,” Morgantown Police Chief Ed Preston said. “Period.”
When you’re dealing with that many people, communication is essential, Messerly said. She said planning for football season starts in July and involves meetings between all local first responder agencies such as police, fire and EMS.
“They have a huge role in relation to the game,” she said.
Messerly also coordinates with non-emergency responder groups, including the health department, facilities management, concession vendors, cleaning vendors and Big 12 replay officials.
All the involved parties also meet every Tuesday before a home game.
Caravasos said things like construction and road work change from game-to-game and need to be accounted for each game day.
Another thing taken into consideration at the pre-game planning meeting is kickoff time. A night game has different challenges than a noon game or an afternoon game.
Preston said the groups also look at who WVU is playing to determine where traffic will be coming from. For example, if they’re playing Maryland, traffic will be coming on Interstate 68, he said.
The Morgantown Police Department (MPD) also has to account for regular calls during a game day, Preston said.
Calls about neighborhood disputes, accidents and thefts don’t stop just because the Mountaineers are playing.
“We essentially have two departments working,” he said.
There are MPD officers at entry gates, PRT platforms and inside the stadium, where MPD is responsible for the west part of the stadium, Preston said. WVU takes care of the east half, State Police help with the field and all agencies help with traffic.
Monongalia County Sheriff Perry Palmer said his department escorts the away team to its hotel once it crosses into Mon County, and escorts both teams from their hotels to the stadium on game day.
Preston said traffic is a major concern on game day but the department works to keep the main thoroughfares moving. He said the fastest way to get around town is to use the main streets. Stopping traffic to let someone turn left from a side street causes a 20 minute backup, he explained.
The stadium has its own jail, and utility vehicles are used to transport people who need medical care, to avoid having to deal with traffic in those areas.
“It’s not a university effort, but a region wide effort for a home game,” Messerly said. “We really rely on all groups to help us have a great game day.”
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