Montgomery bowl games expected to bring big economic boost

Montgomery bowl games generate revenue to boost city's economy

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - The influx of football fans who traveled to the city of Montgomery for two bowl games at historic Cramton Bowl are expected to provide a much-needed infusion of cash into the local economy.

On Dec. 23, Memphis took on Florida Atlantic at the inaugural Montgomery Bowl, and on Christmas Day, Marshall Thundering Herd took on the Buffalo Bulls at the seventh annual Camellia Bowl.

Both games brought in families from across the country.

Buffalo fan Racheal Williams traveled to Montgomery from Mississippi to watch her son play.

“With him being in New York we don’t have the luxury of seeing him every day, so we made the drive out today to support him in the Camellia Bowl,” Williams said.

“We came from Atlanta,” said Buffalo fan John Palermo. “We’re originally from the city of Buffalo so the University of Buffalo is kind of our hometown team.”

“We are from Rochester, New York, just outside of Buffalo,” said Camellia Bowl attendee Carrie Lefebvre. “We came for the bowl game, and are celebrating Christmas with the Bulls.”

More people in the city means more revenue generated - revenue the city needs after the economic downfall brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

As of October, the city’s lodging tax is down 37% year over year, with city hotels operating at about a 50% capacity. That translates to $376,722.48 fewer dollars brought in by tourism compared to last October.

Kay McCreery, Montgomery’s director of parks and recreation, said that the bowl games will have a positive economic impact.

“We had four teams in town essentially two nights each. So they booked all of those hotel rooms and you have that hotel tax that comes in. We have officials in town, we have ESPN staff in town, and all of those have hotel rooms,” McCreery said.

“They’re eating food, they’re buying gas, (and) some of them are buying souvenirs,” McCreery went on to say. “So all of those things play in to raising the hotel tax and supporting the city budget.”

McCreery said in past years the Camellia Bowl has brought in an average of $17 million to the city.

However, because of COVID-19 and the stadium limited to a 20% capacity, it is hard to know just how much money the games will generate this year. McCreery said they don’t anticipate reaching $17 million, but said it will still be a significant impact.

Not to mention, there were two bowl games this year opposed to the usual single Camellia Bowl.

McCreery said the city will not know exactly how much money the bowl games generated until early 2021.

The Camellia Bowl game was also the only game aired on ESPN on Christmas Day, and the city said this has brought national attention to Montgomery that they hope will bring more visitors in the future.

“We want people to be excited to be in Montgomery,” McCreery said. “We have a great city. We have a lot of things to see and do here. We want them (visitors) leaving here saying ‘I’m going to come back and visit,’ when we’re not playing football.”

Back in August, Montgomery also held the FCS Kickoff Classic at Cramton Bowl, the first college football game to take place during the COVID-19 pandemic. McCreery said that game also brought in much-needed revenue to the city.

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