Georgia fans flocking to LSU like they did last year to Notre Dame
ATHENS — Georgia fans are trying to replicate last year’s South Bend Takeover at Notre Dame with another massive Red & Black Migration. And according to at least one interested party, they might just do it.
This time the destination is LSU.
Thousands of Georgia fans are heading to Louisiana next week. Most are bound first for New Orleans, then on to Baton Rouge for the Georgia-LSU game (3:30 p.m., CBS-TV, WSB 750-AM and 95.5-FM). That’s according to John Mentzer, co-owner of Dawg Days shuttle service, who is making sure a bunch of them get there and have a good time on the way.
Mentzer and his partner Nick Corley are in the very specific business of mass-moving Bulldogs. The 33-year-old UGA alums plan and sell “party-package” trips from Buckhead to Athens for “marquee Georgia home games” every season. They also planned and arranged the transportation of thousands of Georgia fans from Chicago to South Bend for last September’s game against Notre Dame.
The LSU game is generating similar interest and excitement, according to Mentzer.
“This year is very similar, New Orleans to Baton Rouge,” Mentzer said. “This game each week has gotten more-and-more tough and high-demanding as far as tickets and interest. The hype has built way more than we thought. At the outset we thought we might have 50 percent of the crowd that we had at Notre Dame. The numbers were already bigger than that in the preseason. But after LSU won that game against Miami and kept rolling, it looks like it’s turned into the matchup of the year in college football again.”
The game will feature the nation’s No. 2 team in Georgia (5-0, 3-0 SEC) and No. 5-ranked LSU (5-0, 2-0). That’s much better than anticipated before the season.
There was a lot of pessimism within the Tiger Nation about coach Ed Orgeron and LSU’s prospects this season, especially with an early-season slate that included games against Miami and Auburn. The Tigers won both games and this Saturday are at Florida.
As a result, the excitement has continued to build. Mentzer said he now has booked almost as many buses to get Georgia fans from New Orleans to Baton Rouge — “about 50” — as he did last year from Chicago to South Bend. He said each bus holds approximately 50 people and he is “pretty much” capped out.
Dawg Days doesn’t provide tickets to the game, but participants can expect a big party. They offer a $75 package on Friday that includes brunch at the famous Palace Cafe on Canal Street in the morning, a second-line parade and march to French Quarter in the evening and a special “Nola Swing” event at a two-story bar on Bourbon Street that night.
Early Saturday morning, $189 party-bus passengers will gather at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome and enjoy a two-hour, catered “pregame tailgate” on the field. After check-in, they’ll board the buses for the 79-mile ride to Baton Rouge, where the tailgate will resume on the LSU Golf Course. After the game, they will return to the Superdome in New Orleans, where there will be an option to party some more.
“Hopefully we can get out of there with a ‘W’ and everybody will want to stay around another hour or so when we get back and celebrate the victory,” Mentzer said.
Like everybody else, Dawg Days eagerly awaited the SEC’s announcement of kickoff time and television for the game. As expected, CBS selected it for its coveted 3:30 p.m. (ET) time slot. That’s 2:30 p.m. in Louisiana.
That was somewhat of a disappointment for Mentzer as it means an earlier rise and departure from New Orleans. But he’s also glad they won’t be returning in the wee hours of Sunday morning.
“We’ve got our itinerary all buttoned-up and ready to go now,” Mentzer said. “Ideally 6 o’clock is the perfect time for maximum tailgate hours. Later would’ve been great, but we’ll be ready and rocking early.”
Of course, there are lots of other ways to attend the game, and Georgia fans are trying them all.
- Round-trip flights from Atlanta to New Orleans are very expensive — approaching $1,000 — and it costs even more to fly into Baton Rouge. So many are making the drive.
- Some are staying in Baton Rouge. However, hotel rooms there are hard to come by there and are very expensive as well. Others are trying to save a few bucks by staying off the beaten path lodging in places like Gonzales.
- Others, like Georgia fan Blake McCrary, are providing their own lodging. He is leaving Dalton in his RV on Thursday of next week with two friends and meeting four other buddies from two different states in Baton Rouge. “We bought (tickets) six weeks ago for $20o (each),” McCrary said via Twitter. “First trip to Death Valley for all of us.”
Of course, getting there is just half the battle. Whether or not Georgia fans can all find their way into Tiger Stadium is the biggest question at this point. Tickets are now very hard to come by.
UGA received only 6,000 from LSU to provide to donors on a priority basis. Some fans are paying as much as $750 apiece from ticket brokers, according to social media responses to DawgNation.
Regardless, the Georgia fans are coming, and they’re coming in droves again.
DawgDays said it will set up a wide screen for a watch party at their tailgate spot for those who didn’t think to buy tickets well in advance. But if it’s anything like Notre Dame last year, they’ll find a way to get through the gates.
And that’s what this feels like to Mentzer.
“Notre Dame was a once-in-a-lifetime experience with the whole South Bend thing,” Mentzer said. “We’ve played at LSU more recently but this game has gotten more hyped with each week. And this is a much different environment. LSU is its own experience. There will be some serious SEC love and hate in this one, too.”