The mayor of Oxford, Miss., says University of Mississippi football fans should prepare for end-of-game gridlock similar to what happened after the Texas A&M game when the school plays Missouri on Nov. 23 in Oxford.
“Sixty thousand people left that stadium at the same time. … They all wanted to go home,” Pat Patterson said Tuesday, Oct. 12, at the Memphis Rotary Club. “When you have that situation you are going to gridlock. Oxford does not have the infrastructure to move 60,000 people out at the same time.”
Like the Texas A&M game, the Missouri game in Oxford will be televised by ESPN.
Because of the close score in the Texas A&M game as well as the late start time for television, Patterson said there was little if any postgame bounce for the Grove or businesses in the Oxford town square. And that will probably be the case with the Missouri game.
“Look out for it. We are going to have a tight problem,” he said. “We’re doing all we can. … If you come to the Missouri game just be patient.”
The Missouri game is the last home game of the season for the school.
The gridlock is part of a larger issue that comes with Oxford’s growth in a recovering real estate market after the town, like many cities, was overbuilt with condominiums going into the recession. Another factor is the university’s goal of growing its student body from 18,000 to 22,000.
“Infrastructure in Oxford is strained to the max,” said Patterson, who is in his second four-year term as mayor. “We have a tax base, we have an ad valorem base of 20,000 people but we are actually trying to provide services for 40,000.”
Because of that “town-gown” mix, developers want to build close to the town’s square.
“One of the absolute highlights of my youth was to come to Main Street Memphis to the Goldsmith’s and stay at The Peabody and the Gayoso,” said Patterson, a sixth-generation Oxford resident. “I had absolutely reached the pinnacle. And it seems like now that the shoe’s on the other foot.”
Patterson sees the town’s design as built to handle outward growth making the need for balance critical with developers who increasingly want to “grow in.”
“It’s difficult. You do that through historic preservation. You do that through overlay districts. You do that through an aggressive zoning department,” Patterson said after his speech. “But at the end of the day if someone wants to come and it’s done correctly, the law allows them to come. As much as you want to some afternoons build a wall around the place, you can’t do that. You just try to manage in the smartest way you can the growth.”
Other issues in the town-gown relationship is the debate about allowing Sunday alcohol sales.
“I struggle with those issues a lot,” he said. “Do we just open it up all the way? I don’t know. Those are some tough issues we are dealing with.”