LEXINGTON, Ky. (WDRB) -- Big Blue Madness marks the unofficial start of the basketball season for UK fans, and hundreds of them are already camping out for tickets to the first official, open practice for the Wildcats.
UK fans started setting up early Wednesday morning in “Tent City” and now all 585 spots are full. Row after row and tent after tent is filled with fans of Big Blue Nation.
The University of Kentucky is giving away more than 20,000 free tickets Friday night. Nearly half of those will go to campers already in line.
The fans are pumped up for UK's Big Blue Madness on October 16th showcasing the men’s and women’s basketball teams.
"They love getting here and just hanging out with the fans,” said UK athletics media relations spokesperson Eric Lindsey.
“Players and coaches will come out and see them, hand out food, interact with them a little bit - and we've talked with people before that actually take off some of their vacation hours to come here and do this - this is their vacation."
Nearby construction took up about 200 camping spots that were available last year.
Wednesday afternoon, fans were bundled up and covered up with tarps and umbrellas trying to stay warm and dry. But despite the gray skies they still bleed blue.
"I wouldn't miss this,” said Racheal Friend of Pikeville. “This is more important to me than actually getting the tickets."
Friend was one of the first in line and has been in town since Sunday.
"It's just being part of Big Blue Nation,” said Friend. “You take pride in that, you take pride in the basketball program, you take pride in the fans and you take pride in being respectful of one another."
Jessie James, 78, showed off her accommodations inside her tent and explained what she has to go through to get free tickets.
"Rain, and the hard ground, and you don't eat and you don't sleep hardly," said James.
This is her third year camping out after going to her first Cats game when she was 75.
"So everything we go through is worth it for those tickets, because each one of us gets four tickets," said James.
The following is a university statement to fans reminding them of campus policies and practices:
The University of Kentucky appreciates your ongoing support of our Wildcat athletic teams! As a University, we hope you will support all our Wildcats while you are on campus, including students, employees and other visitors.
UK Athletics has also provided locations and guidelines for campers. Please know that university policies and regulations will be enforced. UK is a tobacco-free campus, therefore no tobacco products and no electronic cigarettes can be used on university property. Also, you cannot be in possession of alcohol or firearms on UK property. Furthermore, everyone on our campus — students, faculty, staff, and visitors — has a right to an environment free of discrimination and harassment. Campers and members of our campus community are expected to display respect for each other at all times.
To report inappropriate behavior, call UK Police at 257-8573 or #UKPD from any cell phone.
If visitors on campus for Big Blue Madness tickets are identified as participating in inappropriate behavior in violation of university expectations, those violators may be required to leave their position in line and lose access to tickets. Please help us maintain a respectful and policy abiding environment as we enjoy the special atmosphere that can only be found with Big Blue Nation!
The university will start handing out tickets at 10:00 PM Friday. If you didn't have a chance to make it to tent city, you can still pick them up online.
For more information on events associated with Tent City, visit the UK Athletics website at http://www.ukathletics.com.
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