‘Zero Dark Thursday’ to close Franklin Street

While the students are away, the town of Chapel Hill will still play.

The North Carolina football team will play Miami at home on Oct. 17, sporting all-black alternate uniforms in a game marketed by the athletic department as “Zero Dark Thursday.”

The black uniforms, meant to reflect the Kenan Stadium student section known as the “Tar Pit,” were released at halftime of UNC’s annual spring game in April along with the “Tar Pit Series” that will feature a new alternate jersey or helmet in one of the Tar Heels’ games each year.

“The Tar Pit is black so that’s where that has sprung from. We’re just trying to get to our history and our heritage of being the Tar Heels,” said Bubba Cunningham, UNC’s athletic director.

The game will be UNC’s second Thursday game aired on ESPN this year as the Tar Heels opened their season with a 27-10 loss to South Carolina Aug. 29.

The town of Chapel Hill will host the game’s Tar Heel Town at 140 West Plaza during the Thursday night game, and ESPN will broadcast its pregame show from the plaza.

Franklin Street will close between Columbia and Mallette Streets for family friendly games and free game-day activities.

Afterward, residents without tickets to the football game will be encouraged to go to local bars and restaurants to watch the game.

Chris Carini, the owner of Linda’s Bar & Grill on Franklin Street, said Chapel Hill merchants should prepare to open early and keep shops clean.

“A game like Miami brings a lot of business from the surrounding areas,” Carini said during a press conference about the game’s festivities Monday.

The Chapel Hill Downtown Partnership was integral in bringing Tar Heel Town to the 140 West Plaza.

“Other towns roll out the red carpet,” said Meg McGurk, the partnership’s executive director. “In Chapel Hill, we roll out the Carolina blue carpet and the Carolina blue skies.”

Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt said he was sure the game would bring a lot of economic activity to the town.

Home football games generally bring about $6.3 million in total economic impact to Chapel Hill and Orange County, according to a 2008 study done for the town.

Kleinschmidt said the town wouldn’t have issues controlling the expected crowd of about 10,000, noting that two weeks after the game, the town will host a much larger crowd for Halloween.

While Cunningham said he believes a Thursday game somewhat departs from the tradition of college football, he said it will be a good way to showcase both the football program and University.

“I think it’s a good boost to our football program to be shown nationally, especially against as quality of an opponent as Miami,” he said.

“Now, we don’t want a steady diet of non-Saturday games because college football is built on a Saturday tradition. But I think occasionally it’s something good for us to do.”


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