GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) — Pirate Nation is gearing up for its first large-scale home football game since before the coronavirus pandemic.
Thousands of students and fans will be heading to Greenville on Saturday to take part in the Pirates’ home opener against South Carolina. University officials have been preparing for this day and have been putting the final plans in place to keep everyone safe.
ECU police officials say they expect the stadium to be near capacity for Saturday’s game, with about 45,000 people filling the seats. It’s the first large crowd the Pirates have had since the 2019 football season.
Several law enforcement agencies, including NC State Highway Patrol and the FBI are assisting the university. There will be increased security because the game is on the 20th memorial of Sept. 11, 2001. Officials said to also expect heavy traffic and longer traffic delays around the stadium and going to and from the university. They expect traffic to be backed up as early as Saturday morning and will likely run heavy until Sunday evening.
“When the game ends between 3 and 3:30, traffic will begin to pick back up and will probably be pretty congested until 4:30-5 o’clock” ECU Police Capt. Chris Sutton said Wednesday. “So if you’re not coming to the game, shame on you, but if you’re not coming to the game, please don’t come around this area. Pick an alternate route.”
Expect 14th Street between Elm Street and Charles Boulevard to close at 9 a.m. College Hill Drive, from 10th Street to 14th Street, will also close at 9 a.m. to allow pedestrians to walk from the tailgate lots to the game. Also, due to the anticipated heat, there will be additional cooling and EMS personnel on-site.
Fans are not required to wear face masks in open areas of Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium, but they will be required indoors. Everyone is also encouraged to follow CDC guidance, whether you are vaccinated or not.