Tuscaloosa expands helpline to ease gameday plights

By Jonathan Hardison

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - Just 3 days away from Alabama's first home game, new traffic routes and the expanded stadium may have longtime season ticket holders feeling a little lost on gameday. Therefore, Tuscaloosa is expanding its free 311 helpline to manage.

When Tide fans call 311 on gameday, calls are answered in city hall. In addition to monitoring the traffic using cameras, the operators may answer questions from fans already familiar with coming to the game. But new to them is the traffic configuration.

With 9,000 new seats and 36 new skyboxes, Bryant-Denny Stadium won't just look new, it will have a new traffic flow pattern thanks to Tuscaloosa's new plan to route more car and foot traffic to the western side of the stadium.

The city is also offering free parking at the intermodal facility less than a mile away, with a $1 shuttle to the stadium and new stadium stroll routes.

"We think sometimes when people can't see the stadium from where they park they think it's farther than it really is, but this will be closer even than the soccer lot," said Tracy Croom, Tuscaloosa city clerk.

To help new Tide fans and returning season ticketholders manage all the changes, the city is expanding its 311 call center hours to 4 hours prior to kickoff.

"We have everything from where to park to what side of the stadium, there's just a whole lot of information 311 can offer," said Rogena Bonner, 311 call center manager.

The 311 call center only averaged about 100 calls on gameday last year, but with the changes, they're expecting more cries for help this season. "Our call-takers will be here, we have access to all phone numbers, no question is too hard or too easy for us," Croom said. "Just anything anybody wants to call, even our own residents, we'll be here 4 hours prior to kickoff."

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