Starting Wednesday afternoon, about 3,000 University of Kentucky students will have to move their cars from Commonwealth Stadium to Whitaker Bank Ballpark on the north side of town and take shuttle buses back to campus. By 8 p.m., the army of RVs that attends most UK football games will be able to park.
That's just the beginning of preparations for a rare Thursday night home game, against Auburn, that will air on ESPN.
Starting at 3:30 a.m. Thursday, UK HealthCare employees who usually park near Commonwealth will find spaces at Rupp Arena and take shuttle buses to work. Later that morning, employees from other parts of campus, such as the VA Hospital and agriculture school, will find satellite parking at large churches on Tates Creek Road. Students who live off campus will drive to Southland Christian Church on Richmond Road and take shuttles from there.
By 8 a.m., people with game day parking permits may set up their tailgates on campus. People trying to get to and from work on Nicholasville or Tates Creek roads should be prepared for delays. Bluegrass Community & Technical College, which still has a campus on Cooper Drive, is closing for fall break, and even the Lexington Senior Center will be closed all day. Alumni Drive between Nicholasville and Tates Creek will be closed at 4:30 p.m. to all but game day traffic.
Never miss a local story.
There has not been a weeknight college football game in Lexington since 1939, and many people have been caught unawares by the breadth and depth of preparations and possible problems.
Traffic is not the only problem: Although encouraged to hold classes, many faculty have canceled because it will be hard to get to campus, and it's not clear how many students would choose classes over tailgates.
UK officials say it's all well worth it.
"The Thursday night event represents a distinctive opportunity for both the university and the community of Lexington," UK spokesman Jay Blanton said in a statement. "UK and Lexington will be showcased on national television on a Thursday night, without the competition of several other football games as there is each Saturday. We can't buy that kind of exposure on national television."
But not everyone thinks football should inconvenience learning.
"It's precisely that attitude that ticked me off," said UK professor James Albisetti, who wrote a letter to the Herald-Leader, published Tuesday, bemoaning the trouble students will have making room for ticket holders. "It's a university and you make it hard to go to class? I have a lot of students for whom this is going to be a problem."
Professor Andrew Hippisley, chairman of the University Senate, reminded his colleagues Tuesday that despite some mixed messages, classes should be held as usual.
"I will be holding a lab at 3:30 and I expect my students to be there," Hippisley said. "They can watch football at 7 p.m."
That did not appear to be true for everyone. Freshman Taylor Arnett lives off campus and made plans to stay with a friend on campus after she found out she couldn't park at Commonwealth. Two of her three Thursday classes were canceled because of the game, she said.
"It's kind of annoying; it's really inconvenient," Arnett said. "We pay almost $300 for a pass for this parking lot, and they're making us park somewhere else. I feel like they should have just scheduled the game for another day.
"I have a really hard major. I'm a pre-vet major and I'm busy all the time, and this really affects our learning."
Sophomore Sara Chism said her Thursday afternoon class had been canceled, but she didn't mind.
"This is who UK is," she said. "We'll make up for it later. These are the experiences we'll remember the rest of our lives."
Junior Meagan Pinkston said she doesn't have Thursday classes but probably wouldn't come if she did.
"I think it's really nice that some professors went ahead and canceled classes," Pinkston said. "It's going to be crazy for the people that do have to come over here, but it's going to be a big game."
Blanton said the Southeastern Conference expects its members to host the occasional Thursday night game each year.
"We understand there are challenges with doing a weekday game at a stadium located on the campus that is also utilized for other things, such as parking," Blanton said.
But with online learning tools, faculty and students could make up missed classes easily, he said.
Ticket sales for the sold-out game will exceed $3 million.
The SEC provides a stipend for holding Thursday night games, but Blanton said it still was unclear how much that wold total. The special shuttles for students and employees will cost about $40,000, and UK is paying Lexington Center Corp. nearly $10,000 for 1,600 parking spots near Rupp Arena. UK also will reimburse the city for police officers used to control traffic outside the stadium.
Blanton said total costs probably would be in the low six figures.
UK paid the city more than $211,000 for traffic management and other costs for football games in 2014.
The rest of Lexington also will be disrupted. Police are trying to warn commuters to find alternate routes around Nicholasville Road all day Thursday, because it will not have the usual number of lanes open to inbound traffic during the morning and outbound traffic during the evening.
"If we can get the word out to our normal commuters to avoid that area, it will be really key," said Sgt. Ann Welch.
Police will post regular traffic updates on Twitter at @lexkypolice and @lexwrecks.