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Homecoming boost to economy

Licensed vendor Ricky Hawkins of Niche Enterprises displays ASU homecoming T-shirts and accessories at his roadside stand near Radium Springs Road and Oglethorpe Boulevard Tuesday afternoon.

Licensed vendor Ricky Hawkins of Niche Enterprises displays ASU homecoming T-shirts and accessories at his roadside stand near Radium Springs Road and Oglethorpe Boulevard Tuesday afternoon.

ALBANY, Ga. — In terms of dollars earned, for many hotels and restaurants it’s the biggest event all year. According to Rashelle Beasley, welcome center manager at the Albany Convention and Visitors Bureau, last year’s Albany State University homecoming event brought a $3 million shot in the arm to the local economy, with 4,000 room nights rented.

TODAY’S ASU HOMECOMING SCHEDULE

Noon to 3 p.m. — “What’s Up Wednesday,” breast cancer awareness event, Student Center amphitheater.

8 p.m. to midnight — Midnight Masquerade: Skate Night Jam, Stardust Skate Center on Ledo Road.

This year’s expectations are loftier still, said Beasley, with projections by ASU in the order of 6,400 room nights rented and a positive economic impact of $4.6 million. Beasley attributed those predictions to Yolanda Carter at the ASU Alumni office.

“Tell them they should come three times a year,” said Bobby Patel, front desk manager at Knights Inn in Albany.

Patel said Knights Inn generally rents 65 rooms to alumni visitors by the middle of August each year, reserving the rest for their regular clients. According to Patel, the ASU homecoming is the busiest, most lucrative event, with Mardi Gras running a close second.

It’s a sellout weekend for Merry Acres Inn as well, said manager, Cathy Odell, with customers coming “year after year” to enjoy the game and relax at night.

“A lot of our homecoming clients are a bit older, but they come like clockwork to have a good time. We’re always sold out,” Odell said, “usually about six months before the game.”

photo

Joe Bellacomo

Licensed vendor Ricky Hawkins of Niche Enterprises displays ASU homecoming T-shirts and accessories at his roadside stand near Radium Springs Road and Oglethorpe Boulevard Tuesday afternoon.

According to Odell, only a few events rival the ASU Homecoming as economic “home runs.”

“The Jehovah’s Witnesses and Quail Unlimited are great,” she said, “with the ag expo (the Sunbelt Agricultural Exposition last week in Moultrie) not quite so good this year.”

Marriott Courtyard assistant general manager, Kervin Lassiter agrees the ASU event is the hotel’s biggest each year, with Mardi Gras and the ag expo following closely on its heels.

“We send the spillover to Cordele or Tifton,” Lassiter said, “depending on where they’re coming from.”

Most area restaurants report an increase in business for the homecoming period.

“We’re staffed up and ready for them when the game is over,” Red Lobster service professional Doris Mitchell said. “We do well on other days, too.”

Mitchell says the homecoming week is one of the biggest days for Red Lobster, but not as big as Mother’s Day.

Joseph Strickland, manager of Zaxby’s Chicken on Pointe North Blvd., always schedules extra help for the homecoming days, he said, anticipating as much 30 percent increased volume.

“We have meetings about it beforehand every year,” Strickland said, “

According to Strickland, Zaxby’s is “very liberal” in allowing employees who attend ASU to be off during homecoming events if they request it.

“Some of the other people work a double shift that weekend so (the ASU students) can have the time off,” Strickland said.

Not every restaurant benefits from the Albany State homecoming event, and Sonny’s Barbecue on North Slappey is one of those, said Reynolds Horton, restaurant owner.

“We don’t really get much from it,” Horton said, “I’ve tried to promote it. A couple of years ago I went whole hog on it. I gave away some food and offered free catering. Sometimes the business goes down. Now we just don’t do anything different. We alert some extra people, and if we need them we give them a call.”

Horton said that other special events usually do better for Sonny’s, with one in particular working very well.

“When Jehovah’s witnesses come to town we get slammed,” Horton said. “God help you if you’re a chicken on the Saturday they’re here.”