CORVALLIS, Ore. — Oregonians know Eugene and Corvallis are great college towns. Of course, people have their favorites. But there is no debate that both universities are a huge part of the local economy. Business is already way down this year due to the pandemic. And then came this week's announcement from the Pac-12.
“It's a double whammy: far fewer students and no football weekends, which are huge for the whole town,” said Scott McFarland.
McFarland has been turning out American Dream pizzas for 30 years, right next to the Oregon State University campus. Beavers' football weekends are the biggest of the year.
“You spend the week gearing up for it—it's almost like a sporting event for us too,” said McFarland, who added that he and his crew are getting by thanks to the locals, and more outdoor seating. “The people of Corvallis always support local businesses; it's always been part of the ethos here, and that helps a lot.”
Visit Corvallis says $143 million came to Benton County last year, thanks to visitors. There will be far less this year.
The same is true in Eugene, where Sarah Smith manages the Holiday Inn Express, in a prime location.
“It's big for us, specifically; we're walking distance to Autzen,” said Smith. “But without ducks football home games ... There's obviously a financial loss… Really every weekend it's a minimum of $50 thousand lost at this property.”
Looking at football alone, the entire picture is staggering, in terms of dollars lost to the Eugene community.
“It's about $8 million a game or 50 to 60 million dollars for the season - so it's a big hit on top of not having any kind of economic activity from these other mass gatherings that would typically be happening,” said Andy Vobora, who is the VP of Stakeholder Relations with Travel Lane County.
Vobora hopes 2021 is a big turnaround year.
So does hotel manager Smith.
“We're ready to welcome people back into the area,” said Smith.
Pizza maker McFarland is also pulling for a strong recovery, while keeping the faith for the home team.
“My staff and my buddies … Instead of [watching] football games we're gonna gather and wear our Beaver gear and we’ve got to keeping that going. And we will, we're good at that here in Corvallis,” said McFarland, who added, “Go Beavs!”
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