Perfectly trimmed grass, freshly painted lines, 80,000 seats and tributes to the Gamecock greats of years past. Sounds like a Carolina football game, right?
Well, it doesn’t have to be.
Imagine the scene described above, but instead of 80,000 strangers the stadium is filled with a few hundred family members, close friends, business colleagues or even potential customers.
is not only home to the University of South Carolina Gamecocks but hosts all types of affairs throughout the season and off-season.
In the past year alone, the venue has been the setting for events ranging from an AFLAC Employee Appreciation Day to the Spring Valley High School prom.
Corey Potter, a Columbia photographer, didn’t know of the possibilities the stadium held until a few years ago, when a couple requested to have their engagement photos there.
“Once I posted those pictures on the site, tons of people started asking about it,” he said.
Potter described the typical couple who chooses this setting for such events as playful, willing to have a good time and generally people who spend a lot of time going to or watching football games.
“People who are really big Gamecock fans are usually kind of starstruck going in there,” he said.
Michael Jennings, operations vice president for Centerplate, the catering company that handles events held by USC, saidsaid his own daughter had her wedding reception
in the Zone portion of Williams-Brice, the largest room available for rental.
Jennings said staff is flexible and cooperative.
“They’re willing to work with you,” he said.
They worked with Jennings enough for him to have a 40-foot stage erected on the field for his daughter and her new husband to be presented on, as well as put the traditional slideshow of the newly hitched couple on the scoreboard.
“It was a very glamorous event,” said Mel Parker, the assistant director of facility management at Williams-Brice who has worked there for 17 years.
Parker, who is in charge of all bookings for private events in the stadium, says it’s a popular place.
“It’s typical stuff for the most part,” he said. “We do a lot of business meetings, parties, things like that.”
Between March 2012 and March 2013, the stadium rented space for hundreds of events, mostly to USC for staff meetings, football games, and sometimes sorority and fraternity functions.
Events by private individuals, such as birthday and graduation parties, weddings and baby showers were the second most frequent reason for rentals. The stadium was home to 11 wedding-related events last year, from rehearsal dinners to receptions.
Corporate events, like the AFLAC Employee Appreciation Day and a Palmetto Health Foundation fundraiser, were next on the list.
Since July 2012, the stadium has brought in $87,000 from these rentals.
The Zone is generally the most popular room for large private events, as it can hold up to 650 people for a sit-down dining experience, Parker said.
“I rent this room alone probably 30 or 40 times a year,” he said as workers shuffled in and out setting up for a party. “I could rent it 75 times a year if I rented it on back-to-back days.”
“Last August, we had 41 events in 30 days, and that was in all of our rooms, but probably half of them were in here,” he said.
There are nine rooms available for private rental – the Zone, the Letterman’s Lounge, the Champion’s Club, five Executive Clubs, and P-1, which can be split in half and rented as the whole room or half the room.
Smaller events, such as birthday parties, are usually in the Letterman’s Lounge or Champion’s Club which hold 120 and 250 people, respectively.
Todd Koesters, an assistant professor in USC’s College of Hospitality, Retail and Sport Management, has some experience with such events and their impact on the facility as a whole.
Koesters joined the USC faculty after serving as vice president of marketing and sales for Churchill Downs Entertainment Group.
“The primary purpose of the hospitality rooms in Churchill Downs and in Williams-Brice is to entertain people,” he said.
“The stadium is really only used for a few Saturdays out of the year,” he said. Events like this bring in money for the stadium, so “it isn’t just sitting there for months.”