PHOENIX — College football is back in the Phoenix metro area.
The Arizona State Sun Devils begin their 2014 season Thursday against Weber State. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.
As expected for the first game of the season, emotions were running high at the university’s main campus in Tempe. The school boasts a huge football fan base, especially after hitting a record enrollment for fall semester. Some of those students camped out overnight at Wells Fargo Arena, where they can be the first to get their game tickets.
“We’re the biggest fans,” said Manny Castillo. “Our team needs our support. We’re going to be there. We’re going to be the front. We’re going to be the loudest. We’re going to be on TV and you’re going to hear us.”
Another student, senior Nick Granillo, said camping out before the first game of the season is not just about passion, but tradition.
“The last couple of years, it’s just kind of grown into a thing,” he said. “It’s pretty awesome. We have a lot of good times out here. We enjoy each other’s company. We all have the same interest — we love football — so this is why we do it.”
For those who enjoyed their own beds Wednesday, ASU is planning to host a pregame event at the new College Avenue Commons near University Drive and College Avenue.
“We will be providing shade, there will be misters, there will be tables and chairs, a food truck,” said Angela Creedon with ASU. “We’ll have a (disk jockey), music and various lawn games for family-friendly activities.”
The event is scheduled to run from 4:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. in order to give fans time to get to Sun Devil Stadium.
It will also serve as an alternative to the traditional football tailgate. ASU recently made several changes to its tailgating policy, including banning kegs, beer bongs and drinking games like beer pong.
“The safety of Sun Devil Nation and the guests who visit Sun Devil Stadium is a primary concern,” said Ray Anderson, vice president for university athletics, when the ban was passed. “Tailgating is one of the great traditions of football, but we are encouraging our fans and visitors to act responsibly on game day.”
Despite the ban, ASU Police said it would not be enforcing the new regulations. Instead, violators will be asked to return the offending items to their car or home. If they fail to comply, they will be asked to leave.
Police will still enforce drinking laws on the books, including underage consumption.
Tailgating begins five hours before ASU home football games for season-ticket holders and 3½ hours before the game for the public.
The game will also be the scene of a canned-food drive for a local food bank.
“Our supplies have really been depleted,” said Jerry Brown with St. Mary’s Food Bank. “The kids, we’ve been feeding them because they don’t have that free breakfast and free lunch in the schools. Our donations really sag during the summer so we’re hoping a big food drive like this will help us restock our shelves.”
Volunteers will be stationed outside of the stadium’s north and south entrances. Fans are asked to bring at least three nonperishable items, especially fruit, vegetables and tuna, to donate. Brown encouraged donors to avoid glass containers.
Last season, an average of 62,689 fans attended each home game. That number is likely to dip slightly, as the stadium is undergoing a $210 million renovation. So far, about 10 sections worth of seats have been removed, meaning thousands of seats have been lost.
Game traffic will restrict or close multiple streets in the downtown Tempe area.
KTAR’s Jim Cross, Lauren Grifo and Jeremy Foster contributed to this report.