MEMPHIS, Tenn. — On Beale Street, famed for its music and nightclubs, there were some noticeable new attractions Friday: lights, cameras and production crews.
Memphis will host its first-ever College GameDay broadcast Saturday morning on ESPN ahead of the No. 24 Memphis Tigers' game against No. 15 SMU.
“We were surprised,” said Bryan Stepp, who was visiting Beale Street from West Virginia and had no idea GameDay was taking place there.
“It’s gonna be a huge crowd in here," Gary Gardo said. "I think they thoroughly underestimated the number of people that are gonna show up tomorrow morning."
The broadcast will air from 8 to 11 a.m., and people are already flocking to Beale Street to check out the set.
“I’m excited about it," Donald Cooper said. "They got a nice setup. It’s my first College GameDay; can’t ask for nothing more."
But just when you think things can’t get any more exciting, ESPN announced Friday that Jerry Lawler would be its celebrity guest picker.
Memphis Police said they would be on-hand with barricades and manpower to ensure everything runs smoothly Saturday.
“We’ll have uniformed patrol officers in the area, mounted patrol officers, plainclothes and undercover officers,” Memphis Police spokesman Louis Brownlee said.
In preparation for the broadcast, B.B. King Boulevard is already closed to traffic from Peabody to MLK.
There will be further traffic complications on Riverside and South Second Street where the Big River Crossing Half Marathon and 5k will be happening from 8 to 11 a.m.
It won’t be a problem for everyone, though.
“We live down on South Main, and so we’re all meeting for a breakfast at 6 in the morning and walking down here, so we’ll be down here by 7,” Boo Gardo said.
Phillip Tate is excited to capitalize on all of the extra foot traffic on Beale Street. Starting at 4:30 a.m., he and his Runway Grille crew will be firing up their grills in Handy Park.
“Normally, we’re here from March to September, and right now we’ve got a special event coming up," Tate said. "No matter the weather, we got to do it."
The Downtown Memphis Commission said the Beale Street Bucks program won’t be taking place on either Friday or Saturday. A spokesperson said it was hard to predict how big Saturday’s crowd might be, but that there would probably be at least a couple thousand people.