Room occupancy and game attendance may be lower for this years ACC football championship game Saturday night in Charlotte, but the citys hotel and restaurant managers seem to agree on one thing a so-so ACC title game is better than no ACC title game.
Whether attendance is up or down, were doggone glad weve got it, says Sid Smith, executive director of the Charlotte Area Hotel Association.
The first two ACC football championship games in Charlotte were sellouts, but organizers expect some empty seats when Florida State and Georgia Tech meet at 8 p.m. Saturday at Bank of America Stadium.
Some of that is due to the absence of two ACC teams with big fan bases Clemson, which finished second in its division to Florida State; and UNC Chapel Hill, banned this year from postseason play by the NCAA. Virginia Tech, which played in the ACC championship game in 2010 and 2011, and tends to bring a big following on the road, had a 6-6 season.
Smith says some uptown hotels will be nearly full this weekend, but several wont. Last year when Clemson faced Virginia Tech it was nearly impossible to find a room at an uptown hotel on ACC championship weekend.
Some that were at 100 percent last year are running around 80 percent this time, he says. Hotels in the outlying areas, which might have been at 80 percent occupancy last year, could be near 50 percent this time.
But compare that to a typical weekend at this time of year, and its good.
Bill DeLoache, general manager of the DoubleTree by Hilton on West Trade Street, said occupancy there will fall in the 80 percent range perhaps a bit less that Smith describes. He says his hotel reduced rates from last year to pick up occupancy.
DeLoache says occupancy rates pivot on which teams make it to the game, and how strong their fan base is.
Some teams are known to bring in a strong crowd, such as West Virginia, UNC and Clemson, DeLoache adds. FSU typically has a fairly strong following, but Georgia Tech is less of a draw.
But DeLoache agrees with Smith: Even in a slower year, the ACC game creates significant demand for hotels, restaurants and other goods and services that the attendees utilize.
Also, it looks good for Charlotte to be the host city for events such as this, which benefits our community in many intangible ways.
Restaurants gearing up
Kenny Voigt, assistant manager at Carolina Ale House on South Tryon Street, says hes heard that attendance and hotel room occupancy might be lower this year than in 2010 and 2011. But he says its too early to tell what impact that might have on restaurants.
Well have to wait and see what happens over the weekend, he says. A lot of it depends on whether fans stay for the weekend. If fans stay, it could turn out pretty well.
Voigt worked at another uptown restaurant last year and says the Clemson and Virginia Tech pairing was good a killer, he calls it for business. He says restaurant business in the uptown area was booming on game day, although, he adds, many of the fans from Clemson did not stay overnight.
He says uptown restaurants will get a boost this weekend because the Charlotte Bobcats have a home game Friday night.
Jennifer McDade, a cook and server at Picassos Sports Cafe on South Church Street, told WCNC-TV, the Observers news partner, she expects a big weekend, regardless of whether attendance is down from last year.
It will still be bigger than a Panthers game day, because there are so many people coming from out of town for this, she says.
An assistant manager at another uptown hotel, who asked not to be named, says he doesnt expect Georgia Tech to bring a large number of fans to town, especially since the team had a 6-6 record and is coming off a drubbing last Saturday at the hands of rival Georgia.
But, he adds, Its relative. Were talking about 60,000 people coming to Charlotte for a football game instead of going to somewhere else.
Smith says ACC championship game attendance and its related economic impact will vary depending on whos playing in the game. But, he adds, Dont get me wrong. We are very happy with the ACC championship game.
Theres not much else happening this weekend, so its all good. WCNC-TV contributed
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