COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) -- Air Force Academy officials are dealing with traffic concerns related to this season's football schedule that features some early start times and includes a Friday evening kick-off against the University of Nevada.
The Falcons' home schedule is being affected by construction at the north gate entrance, for the project to build a new visitors center, hotels, restaurants and shops -- leaving the south gate as the recommended route in and out of the installation for many spectators.
"Ongoing construction at the north gate continues to slow game day access," said spokesman Dean Miller. "Fans are strongly encouraged to enter the south gate off Academy Boulevard to reduce north gate game day traffic. North gate construction is expected to continue through 2023."
Friday's game starts at 6 p.m., meaning the pre-game arrival traffic will happen during evening rush hour that will be particularly heavy entering the weekend.
Traffic has been such a concern that before the Northern Iowa game two weekends ago, officials asked KRDO to broadcast an on-screen "crawl" alerting people to traffic congestion and asking them to arrive early; a crawl is generally reserved only for specific programming alerts for viewers.
That game started at 10 a.m., the same start time for next weekend's game against Navy -- typically one of the Academy's biggest crowds of the season.
Officials are asking spectators to arrive early to home games in hopes of minimizing traffic congestion.
However, Lt. Christopher Blevins, of the 10th Security Forces Squadron, said that traffic flowed smoothly during the Sept. 3 season opener against Northern Iowa.
"And that was also Parents' Day, so we had a bigger crowd than we might have had otherwise," he said. "Around half of the fans used the north gate and half used the south gate. On Friday, we'll have a state trooper at the north gate to help people get through. The south gate should be fine."
Blevins said that his staff will apply lessons learned from the previous home game.
"We need to figure out the roundabout (between Interstate 25 and the north gate entrance), maybe funnel (traffic) from three lanes to two lanes," he said. "That will create fewer impacts. We've also installed more temporary lights to make it easier for drivers to see at night."
Friday's game is expected to draw a smaller crowd, due to the time and game being switched from Saturday a month ago for TV purposes.
Rhonda Reichel, an academy graduate, said that people should understand preparations for a Falcon game are much different from games at non-military campuses.
"You've got to realize that this is a working, operational base and there are 4,000 cadets right up there that we have to keep secure," she explained. "So that's their number-one priority. Football games, visitors and people going to the games, that's a lower priority."
Academy officials hope to avoid a repeat of the traffic nightmare created when the Colorado Avalanche played a National Hockey League Game at Falcon Stadium in February 2020; thousands of fans spent hours stuck in traffic, saw little of the game or none at all, and the north gate was closed to exiting traffic after a man's accidental death.
"I don't think that will happen again because there was room for only 49,000 fans but 61,000 tickets were sold," Blevins said.