Ready For The Big Show

Town preparing for biggest Wildcat crowd in history

By BOBBY "BUTCH" BURNEY, Special to the News-Telegram

Sept. 8, 2008 - Christmas is coming early to Sulphur Springs.

ESPN2's national live coverage of the Wildcats' game against Wichita Falls Rider on Thursday night is a lot like the Christmas holiday. There has been months of anticipation and a lot of last-minute preparations, and if everything goes as planned, a smorgasbord of a good time.

There's nothing like national television coverage to get a school - and town, for that matter - rocking and rolling.

And things have been rocking, at least in the planning stages, since the spring.

For Sulphur Springs Independent School District officials, the main emphasis for Thursday is getting the stadium prepared for the onslaught of fans and making the game-day experience safe and enjoyable. That includes additional seating and more security.

SSHS assistant principal Dwayne McMeans said there will be at least 20 security guards plus the Hopkins County Sheriff's Posse patrolling the parking lot and stadium. The police presence is needed because ESPN requires additional security -- plus, there is the recognition that this will likely be the most well-attended game in Gerald Prim Stadium history.

That's because not only did season tickets sell out this year, but Rider has asked for 1,500 pre-game tickets to sell, about 500 more than most schools request. For Sulphur Springs fans, general admission tickets are currently on sale in the SSHS office for $3 for students and $6 for adults. They will remain on sale until noon on Wednesday. Ticket sales were reported as "very brisk" this morning. Tickets will also be on sale at the gate for $7 each. McMeans said the school has not put a cap on the number of tickets it will sell, but may do so if the amount of spectators becomes too much for the stadium to hold.

Last week, the school district temporarily moved the stands from Forrest Gregg Field at Sulphur Springs Middle School to Prim Stadium. That should provide about 500 more seats to the existing estimated capacity of 5,000.

Along with the task of seating thousands of people, there is also the problem of where they will park. Between ESPN's four semi trailers, Wichita Falls Rider buses and reserved parking at Gerald Prim Stadium, there won't be many parking spots available in the lot. The Rider booster club is also chartering buses to bring fans to Sulphur Springs. School officials are advising fans to park in the SSHS lot and make the short walk across the Civic Center grounds to the stadium. Fans can also use the teachers' parking lot at the high school and the road around Buford Park.

The city is preparing for national exposure, as well.

The Hopkins County Chamber of Commerce is sponsoring a contest to determine which store is the best decorated in support of the Wildcats. The winner will be recognized with a Wildcat Primetime MVB (Most Valuable Business) award that will be announced during the game.

The SSHS Senior Class will decorate a store front for $25 for a small business and $50 for a large business. Call 903-348-3231 or 903-348-3015 to have it decorated before Thursday. The SSHS senior class will also have a face-painting table near the entrance to the stadium Thursday evening to put spirit faces on children.

The Wildcat Booster Club is selling commemorative T-shirts featuring "Thursday Night Lights." The shirts, which are being sold for $10 for small to large sizes and $15 for XXL and XXXL, are on sale at the sponsoring businesses: City National Bank, Fieldhouse Sports, Dr. Phil Jackson's office and Suddenlink Communications, as well as the SSHS main office.

The Booster Club's weekly meeting is set for 6:30 p.m. today at the NetData office off of East Industrial Drive.

The SSHS pep rally is set for 3:10 p.m. Thursday in the high school gymnasium.

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