NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) - The Tennessee Volunteers are expected to play in front of a sell-out crowd Thursday, despite a record surge of the COVID Omicron variant.

UT fans began painting the city orange Wednesday night before their matchup with Purdue in the TransPerfect Music City Bowl. More than 60,000 fans are expected at Thursday's nationally-televised game at Nissan Stadium, which kicks off at 2 p.m. The gates at Nissan Stadium will open at noon.

As severe weather approached the downtown area on Wednesday, Music City Bowl leaders announced that the Battle of the Bands has been cancelled on Lower Broadway. 

"While we're disappointed we have to cancel this annual tradition, we recognize that the safety of the participants, spectators and all the entities involved are of utmost importance," said TransPerfect Music City Bowl President and CEO Scott Ramsey.

"We had to get the tickets, any ticket we could, we had to," Tennessee fan Lindsey Roberts said. "We are using hand sanitizer like crazy and just tons of prayers."

The U.S. hit a record 7-day case average of 262,034 on Tuesday, surpassing the 252,776-case record set on Jan. 11, according to an NBC News data analysis.

On the eve of the Music City Bowl is the question of whether 60,000 fans in a stadium will add to an already record surge in new COVID cases.

"We're both vaccinated and boostered," Purdue fan John Wallbaum said. "So we're careful, but we're going to do what we want to do."

The stadium's website reads that masks at Nissan Stadium are not required but encouraged among non-vaccinated individuals. For fans who've made the trip to Nashville for the game, COVID concern isn't enough to thwart their plans of cheering on their team up close and personal.

"No reservations because it's outdoors," Purdue fan Mike Brown said. "Though I'm surprised how few people wear masks around town But, we feel like we're pretty safe. It seems like the impact is small if you're boostered."

Because of an expected sell-out crowd, Metro Police encouraged ticket-holders to arrive early for the game and to have a parking plan. Metro Police are encouraging downtown commuters to plan ahead and expect game day congestion.

The traffic plan for the bowl game will be similar to ones used for Titans’ games. This plan includes Woodland Street Bridge closing at 11 am. Fans can walk the bridge to the game or take the shuttle buses.

All additional Bowl events are scheduled as planned.

The kickoff between the Tennessee Volunteers and Purdue Boilermakers at Nissan Stadium is at 2 p.m. For more downtown parking information, click here.  

 

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