The Big 12 era for the University of Houston is officially underway. To prepare UH for the expected bigger crowds, games, and spotlight of the Big 12, many Administration and Finance departments worked diligently behind the scenes to prepare the university.
As with any event that draws large crowds, safety is always top of mind. To be fully prepared for the start of the Big 12 football season, UHPD, the Office of Emergency Management, Fire & Life Safety, Parking & Transportation, Facilities Planning, and the university’s athletic department had several meetings to develop a game plan.
“We teamed up collectively around the university to make sure our Big 12 move is a success,” said UHPD Lt. Demarcus Williams.
Fire & Life Safety and OEM meet with UHPD frequently to discuss events, sometimes one event rolling right into another. The recurring meetings have allowed UHPD and the campus safety departments to have a shorthand of sorts.
Fire & Life Safety and OEM also worked on a stadium evacuation/emergency quick reference guide. The document is for all staff working the event in a security position. The department also overhauled its incident and emergency action plans to reflect the expected increase in attendance and general activity during game days.
Leading up to the Big 12 season, UHPD also met with Parking & Transportation to access traffic flow and discuss parking details, communication strategies, and potential problems.
During game days, UHPD is adding double the number of officers compared to past seasons. The added officers helped keep traffic flow moving during the first game.
An initiative started by Parking and Transportation that will further help with mobility is a Text-to-Pay option it has implemented in the parking lots.
“Instead of having to pull up, hand over cash or credit card for someone to swipe, people can just park, stay in their car, text the number that will give them a link, and they can pay with a credit card,” said Parking and Transportation Assistant Director Richard Zagrzecki. kathy Fieldcamp
Facilities Planning and Athletics assisted with traffic flow through the ticketing system. When a person buys a ticket to a football game, a parking pop-up will appear, giving users a chance to pre-purchase their parking. On game days, a Waze link pops up, giving game day visitors turn-by-turn directions to their parking spot.
“We also worked with TxDOT to get information on the digital message boards that are on the freeways to help guide people to the campus so they can find the best route,” said Interim Director of Facilities Planning Jennifer McPhail.
Also assisting visitors in parking were signs in the parking lot. Previously, Parking and Transportation used large A-frame signs, but starting this semester, 20-foot flags will help identify the parking lots.
Copy and Print printed the flags, and for the past year and a half, Copy and Print has been working with athletics to prepare TDECU stadium printing large wall signage for the stadium’s interior and exterior. Plus, each game day presents more items to print.
“We’re not doing more, we’re doing bigger. So, everything we’re having to do is much bigger than it was last year,” said Director of Copy Print and Delivery Services Nalan Giannukos.
TDECU Stadium also was enhanced in anticipation of the Big 12. In 2022, construction started on adding 10 stadium suites. The advantage is that TDECU Stadium was built with the potential to add suites, which made building out the suites much smoother.
“It was basically a blank space on either side of existing suites,” said Brad Schmidt, Facilities Planning & Construction, Senior Project Manager. “So, we did a full build-out, which was five on either side, ten total.”
A party deck on the third level was also added, and the early fan reactions point to it being a big hit, said Schmidt.
With bigger crowds expected at Big 12 sporting events, the UH Campus Store has the campus community covered with Big 12 and UH merchandise.
Timothy Jackson, Market Leader for the University of Houston System, said items have been flying off the shelves since the UH Campus Store started selling merchandise like polos, sweatshirts, and hoodies.
“Our biggest concern for the home opener is that we wouldn’t have enough because we were selling it so fast,” said Jackson.
Of the top 100 items sold at the Campus Store, the top 25 are UH and Big 12-related.
While the demand was expected to be high, the actual demand surpassed the Campus Store expectations.
Jackson said his team has data to track how much a specific product will sell and purchase the number of items to match that. Despite the data, the Campus Store was inundated with customers in the first few days.
Getting UH ready for the Big 12 took the work of many departments across the campus, with A&F departments playing a large role in the launch. With the Big 12 in full swing, A&F will continue to support the university in the oncoming seasons.