Texas Tech is coming to San Marcos, and officials throughout the city are working together to create a plan of action for managing a crowd they expect to reach at least 30,000.
Tech will be the first football foe of the season after Texas State University officially joins the Western Athletic Conference.
San Marcos Police Chief Howard Williams said his department has been working to develop a crowd management plan since it was announced in 2011 that Texas State would join the WAC.
While the crowd will be a festive one, Williams said, the vast number of people will cause traffic snarls as drivers try to find places to park and visitors try to cross streets.
"It's a huge concern, not only for the university, but for us, too," Williams said. "We're all just going to try to put our collective heads together to get people in and out."
Larry Teis, director of athletics for Texas State University, said San Marcos should prepare for big changes with the move to the WAC.
"The university's made a big investment to put Texas State on the national map, and when we do that, it puts San Marcos on the national map," Teis said. "This is a community effort, it's not just Texas State. The police department, the fire department, they're helping out a lot."
Teis said there are no plans to add surface parking, despite the university doubling the size of the stadium.
"We do have some parking garages around campus, [but] we've got to work on shuttles, [and] getting people back to the games," he said.
Assistant Fire Chief Karl Kuhlman said the department is comfortable working with large groups of visitors and cited the way crowds are managed during the annual tax-free weekend.
He said there is one main difference between the outlet mall crowds and football fans, however.
"We have alcohol involved at football games," he said. "It's just a different crowd. We've never done this before."
Kuhlman said the San Marcos Fire Department has consulted with other fire departments, including Austin, Denton and College Station, to get an idea of how those cities handle the influx of people on game days.
"The logistics will be interesting," he said. "How much stuff is Texas Tech going to bring? Where do we put all this?"
Kuhlman said the department plans to have personnel stationed at locations in and near the stadium. Being in place ahead of time will mean the crews will not have to maneuver through crowds or traffic to get to the stadium, he said.
"The game against Tech will be the largest [of the season]. I'm excited to see what happens," he said. "I think it'll be good for San Marcos."
Williams said that the police manage 70,000–80,000 people per day on Black Friday weekends at the outlet malls and that managing a football crowd will be no different.
"We're talking about crowd maintenance, not crowd control. It's just managing the crowd, getting them to the right places and having [routes] so that they can get in and out quickly," he said.
Williams said he thinks it will not take long for all the departments and groups involved to get football weekends down to a routine.
"We don't want people to think that we're doing all this prep because we're anticipating disaster. We really don't," he said. "That's a lot of people in and out, and we just have to be prepared.
"If it works out right, nobody will even remember that we were there."
He said the creation of a crowd management plan has been a true cooperative effort between the many groups involved.
"I love this university and I love this town. I love that they're getting together to make sure it goes off as smooth as possible," he said. "We really want people to come in and have a great time watching Texas State football."
Teis said the university also plans to work with area hotels to perhaps create a shuttle system for visitors.
"It's going to take a lot of people to do what we're doing," he said. "But I think when y'all see Texas State and Texas Tech run out of the tunnel here in three months in front of 30,000 people, it'll all be worth it."
Complete details on parking, seating and new ticket prices are available on the university's website.