Death Valley to host watch party for Clemson's road game at Georgia

Clemson Memorial Stadium. File/Clemson Athletic Department/Provided

CLEMSON - Even though the team will be 80 miles down the road, Clemson fans can still convene in Death Valley to watch the Tigers take on Georgia in two weeks free of charge.

The Clemson athletic department confirmed plans Friday to open the gates and turns on the lights at Memorial Stadium for the football team's 2014 opener, which will take place at Sanford Stadium at 5:30 p.m. in Athens, Ga. The ESPN broadcast will be shown on the videoboard.

"I think this is a great opportunity for our students and other local folks to enjoy watching a Tigers road football game from Death Valley," IPTAY chief executive officer Davis Babb said. "It is a great gesture on the part of the athletic department, and I think the atmosphere will be fantastic."

It is believed this is the first time Death Valley has hosted a watch party for a road football game. Admission is free, and concessions and novelties will be available for purchase on the west side of the stadium.

"When we heard from fans through social media and email, we began examining the feasibility of opening the stadium, and think this can be a unique experience for our fans wanting to experience a gameday-like viewing from Death Valley," Clemson athletic director Dan Radakovich said.

Radakovich first floated the idea on Twitter July 19; associate athletic director of external affairs Tim Match met with student leaders to gauge their interest, and the school decided to go ahead with it, especially when Clemson's allotment of 7,500 visitor tickets to Sanford Stadium sold out quickly.

If that particular Saturday is a sunny day, there could be some glare on the west-facing screen during the first half, though the second half should not cause visible issues as the sun sets behind the WestZone.

Since the Tigers host FCS opponent S.C. State Sept. 6, are on a bye week Sept. 13 and travel to Florida State Sept. 20, this gives fans an opportunity to visit Death Valley for some semblance of a big-time atmosphere within the first four weeks of the season.

"It's a great way for students to still be active, because when games are far away and you don't have tickets, what do you do?" said Callie Martin, Clemson's Homecoming Queen and a junior majoring in genetics who attended all seven home games in 2013. "The option of going to Death Valley and being with your friends, that's so fantastic."

Gates 2, 9, 11 and 13 open at 4:30 p.m., one hour prior to kickoff. The same usual rules and regulations as on gamedays will apply at Memorial Stadium, including no smoking or drinking inside the building.

Single-game tickets for football, men's and women's basketball and men's soccer can be purchased at the Gate 11 ticket booth. Dale Gilbert is scheduled to serve in his traditional role of public address announcer, and there will be several giveaways throughout the game.

While no reserved parking or grass lot parking will be available (with the exception of Lot 4, which will be open), parking lots around the stadium will open at 2:30, as will restrooms in Littlejohn Coliseum and Doug Kingsmore Stadium's Chapman Grandstand.

Gate 2 (beneath the scoreboard) will be open for fans to take photographs of Howard's Rock, while the hill and the field will be closed to protect the grass.