CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA) — Safe to say, Fall Saturdays are a big deal around Champaign-Urbana.
“We estimate that a typical football weekend with about 40,000 fans brings in about $3 million over a weekend,” says Visit Champaign County’s Mike Koon.
The Illinois Fighting Illini will once again fill the void on weekends starting in late October, even though it will not look the same as it used to. For bars and restaurants that have a dedicated crowd before, during, and after games, like Esquire in downtown Champaign, they will get to have a slice of normalcy back. While still maintaining protocols like wearing masks and distancing, the owners are looking forward to having more fans back for games.
“We’re excited that hopefully people will still want to come out, in smaller groups than before, and watch the game surrounded by other people who are farther away than they used to be,” says Esquire Owner Jackie Sampson.
Hotels can now look forward to being booked by teams and players families. Memorabilia shops may get some fans who have been struck by new season fever. All those things point towards good seasons for businesses who thought they would have to wait until Spring.
“I’m hopeful that it will be good,” says Sampson. “I can’t say anything for sure since right now we’re adapting every day as things change and new things need to be done. We’re hopeful it will be good. For all of downtown, not just for us.”
No fans in the Memorial Stadium stands means a lot of people will not get the chance to watch games from where their used to. If the alternative is having to wait until March, Koon knows everyone will feel boosted by this sense of normalcy.
“People will get together and watch Illini football, even if it’s in the comfort of their couch in their living room or basement or wherever, but certainly having it will be a big boost for us,” says Koon.