COLUMBIA — Missouri's football game against Nebraska on Thursday night will attract national attention to Columbia as ESPN crews descend on MU. But while the cameras focus on the gridiron, reaction is mixed among city bars and hotels about what effect the game will have on their bottom lines.
Some hotels have seen a spike in business, which is usual for high-profile games no matter what day they occur. Bob McDonald, general manager of the Courtyard by Marriott, said the 133-room hotel is sold out Thursday night.
No. 21 Nebraska (3-1)
at No. 24 Missouri (4-0)
WHEN: 8 p.m.
WHERE: Memorial Stadium
RADIO: KFRU/1400 AM, KBXR/102.3 FM
Guests include the Tiger football team, which stays at the Courtyard for home games, he said. A third of the rooms have been booked by Nebraska residents, he said.
The Courtyard’s busiest days are Tuesday and Wednesday, when the hotel is usually full with business travelers, McDonald said.
"Being filled up on Thursday is a bonus," he said.
But some bars are concerned that the midweek game will eat into weekend profits. Sports Zone, which is connected to the Holiday Inn Select, is offering vouchers for use this weekend to patrons who stop by tonight, said Suzie McCubbin, general manager at Sports Zone. She hopes the vouchers will bring back customers, "so our weekend doesn't bomb," she said.
Jay Rader, general manager at Bengals Bar & Grill, is worried that out-of-town visitors will spend less time in Columbia than they usually would for a Saturday game.
"You lose the whole weekend of being in town," Rader said.
The Comfort Suites is sold out tonight, said Kelsey Carlson, assistant manager at the hotel, but it also has some visitors who plan to extend their stay in Columbia.
“We’re half-full for Friday because some people are staying over after the game,” she said. “A lot of visitors are leaving by Saturday.”
Carlson and McDonald said their hotels sell out more frequently for early Saturday games because visitors book rooms for both Friday and Saturday, in contrast to late games on Saturday when people book for Saturday night.
Rader doesn't think the MU athletics department considers the impact of different start times on the local economy when setting the football schedule.
"They always seem to pick game times for the city of Columbia that are as bad as they can be," Rader said.
MU athletic department spokesman Chad Moller said that in unusual scheduling circumstances such as this, "We communicate in advance with business leaders to make sure they understand ahead of time what the situation is, so that they can do their best to adjust as necessary."
The athletics department did consult with the Columbia Chamber of Commerce when the Thursday date was set, chamber President Don Laird said. He welcomes the game's national coverage.
"Exposure for the local community is good," Laird said.
One important variable for Thursday night's game is out of anyone's control. The forecast calls for heavy rain, and a flash flood watch is in effect for Boone County through Friday morning.
For Bengals, which normally broadcasts games outdoors on a large screen, the forecast "is a screwball on top of a curveball," Rader said.
Still, heavy rains may help some businesses. McCubbin predicted that rain will bring bigger crowds to Sports Zone as visiting fans, a number of whom will stay at the attached Holiday Inn, look to escape the weather.
Moller said he does not anticipate mid-week games becoming a regular event. This one, he said, is "a unique opportunity to showcase our program nationally and highlight the university and Columbia to a captive national audience ... We do prefer to play our home games on the traditional Saturday."