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Game day adds up to big $
GSU football a boon for local hotels, restaurants
BIZ GSU FOOTBALL Web
A Georgia Southern fan shows her loyalty along with the rest of Paulson Stadium in the Eagles' 52-20 win over Western - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff

      Georgia Southern football is an economic boon for many Statesboro businesses on home game weekends, but none benefit more than Statesboro hoteliers.
       "Football weekends are huge for us," said Heath Robinson, general manager of the Holiday Inn in Statesboro. "For most home football games we are booked solid, and not just for one, but for two nights. It's exciting, and fun to be a part of."
       The last Georgia Southern football economic impact study was conducted in 2000 according to Betsy Nolen of Georgia Southern's Marketing and Communications Department.
       "That was the last time our Bureau of Business Research and Economic Development did a study, and it was based on 1999 data," she said. "That report states that a conservative estimate of the annual impact of football is $9,954,468.'"
Nolen said the 2010 season produced the highest average home attendance for the regular season at 19,110 fans per game.
       "Since the average home attendance was greater last year than in 1999, you would have to think that the economic impact is greater as well," she said.
       Andy Bhula is the owner of the Comfort Inn and Suites and LaQuinta Inn, both located on the Statesboro Bypass. Bhula said from a business perspective, the time of kickoff can be very important.
       "For instance, last weekend the game was late in the afternoon, and many people drove to the game on Saturday, instead of coming the night before," he said. "Had the game been at 1 pm, we would have had a great deal more fans staying both Friday and Saturday nights. It makes a huge difference."
       Bhula said game days are critical not only to the local hotel industry, but also generate significant tax revenue for the city of Statesboro.
       "Our industry has been hit very hard by the recession," he said. "Game day weekends are like a shot in the arm. Further, when Georgia Southern is playing well, it really helps. It impacts the whole city, because we collect an extra five percent that goes to the city. Let's hope for a playoff game or two this year."
       Quality Inn and Suites owner Per Holtze is also hoping for a great season for the Eagles.
       "When the hotel is full, our restaurant is full as well," he said. "The benefits just multiply. The better the team is, the more enthusiastic the guests are that come to watch them play. When you are happy, you tend to spend a little more."
       Holtze said he isn't sure if Georgia Southern's continued success is going to have an impact on visiting fans booking hotel rooms.
       "Nobody wants to travel to a town, and see their team lose, and then have to take the trip of shame back home," he said. "We will just have to fill up every room with GSU fans, and that would be just fine."
       Robinson, Bhula and Holtze each confirmed that their rates are higher on game day weekends.
       "It's a matter of supply and demand," Robinson said. "When there aren't any rooms to be had, such as on Homecoming and Parents' Day weekend, then you can charge more, and we do."
       The Holiday Inn hosted the Western Carolina Catamounts this past weekend, which included preparing all of the meals for the visiting team.
       "Not only did they occupy a third of the hotel, we provided them with a tremendous amount of food," said Holiday Inn executive chef Jason Scarborough. "We cooked a ton of bacon, chicken breasts, and pasta. We also fed the Georgia Southern band lunch before the game. You just have to love GSU game days."