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Monday, October 02, 2023

About 27,000 students, alumni and Gator fans poured into Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on Friday night for the annual Gator Growl pep rally.

About 10,000 to 20,000 of them tried to get into the stadium around the same time, University Police Department Sgt. Mike Metz said. He said 100 to 200 people tried to "slam through" each gate.

Gator Growl Director of Public Relations Cait Feroleto said part of the issue was that much of the audience arrived just before 7 p.m., when the show was scheduled to start.

Most students had tickets that were for general admission, but some audience members had assigned seats.

Daniella Cortes, a 20-year-old public relations junior, and David Armas, a 20-year-old advertising junior, were in their seats for an hour and a half until they left to use the bathroom. When they came back, security guards told them they had to relocate because they were sitting in a reserved block.

"The thing is, when I bought my ticket, they said I could sit anywhere," Armas said.

Gator Growl Producer Aaron Heger said moving the stage from the north end zone to the student section of the stadium changed the seating arrangements. Audience seating ran from one end zone to the other on the alumni side of the stadium on Friday.

In past years, the audience was split between the student and alumni bleachers.

"Hiccups will happen sometimes with major changes," Heger said. He said Growl was slightly understaffed with ushers, which contributed to the seating confusion.

He estimated that 27,000 people attended the pep rally, but final numbers were not available at press time.

Feroleto said this was the first year with general admission seating.

"Next year, we'll probably plan the seating a little better, maybe go back to assigned seating with blocks and stuff."

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