Area hotels, restaurants and bars are preparing for an economic boon this weekend as hundreds of thousands of football fans take to the town to watch the highly anticipated matchup between LSU and Alabama in Tiger Stadium on Saturday night.
“We’ve been waiting for this weekend for the entire football season, and it’s produced well,” Baton Rouge Lodging Association president and DoubleTree Hotel manager Gary Jupiter says, adding Baton Rouge hotels have little to no availability this weekend.
Hotels alone are expected to book at least $2.5 million worth of rooms this weekend, according to Visit Baton Rouge President and CEO Paul Arrigo. That’s the amount hotels made the weekend of the Ole Miss game, says Arrigo, who expects this weekend’s game to draw even bigger crowds. LSU officials say they expect about 160,000 people to converge on the campus Saturday for the game. Over the weekend of the Ole Miss game, hotels in Baton Rouge drew in 28% more revenue on Friday, Oct. 24, and 32% higher receipts on Saturday, Oct. 25, compared to the same weekend last year.
Arrigo says the service industry, too, will benefit from the crowds. The city-parish will draw taxes from purchases in restaurants and bars, Arrigo notes, and service workers will in turn spend what they make.
“That’s all new money coming into the city,” Arrigo says.
Chad Hugh, the owner of Ivar’s Sports Bar in the Perkins Road overpass area, says he is doing what he can to prepare for this weekend’s crowds, including ordering extra stock and putting more wait staff on shift.
“Other than St. Patrick’s Day, I expect Friday and Saturday to be two of our busiest nights of the year,” Hugh says. “Everyone that works here is working Friday and Saturday nights.”
Brandon Landry, who co-owns Walk-On’s Bistreaux & Bar, says he expects to see around 10,000 patrons over the weekend at the Burbank Drive location near Tiger Stadium. In a typical weekend, the restaurant and bar serves about 2,000 customers. Landry says he’s grateful for the Tigers’ bye week last weekend, which gave the bar a few extra days to stock up.
“We’re preparing to do two weeks of business during the weekend,” Landry says. “People will come in even into Sunday lunch before they leave town.”
And before they leave, Arrigo says, most will be telling their friends and families about their Baton Rouge trips via social media—posting pictures of the city’s attractions and entertainment venues—all of which creates the kind of word-of-mouth publicity that money can’t buy.
“The amount of social media—you can’t put a price on it. We couldn’t buy eight hours of branding,” Arrigo says. —Kelly Connelly