COLUMBIA — Evening football games can be a financial boon to the MU athletics department, but they often mean less business for Columbia bars and restaurants.
And though athletics officials understand the impact on Columbia businesses, they say that television contracts often dictate game times and that there is little they can do.
MU is scheduled to play Colorado at 6 p.m. Oct. 9 at Memorial Stadium. That will be the third of four home games to start at 6 p.m. The game is scheduled to be televised by Fox Sports Net.
Dick Walls Sr., owner of Boone Tavern in downtown Columbia, said games with evening start times are “terrible for business."
“If I was scheduling games, I would schedule them all for mid-afternoon," Walls said. "Night games don’t help. By the time games are over, it’s too late for dinner. They are not very good for our business, though I would rather have a night game here than in St. Louis or Kansas City."
"I am not talking about what is good or bad for the football team, but for my restaurant,” Walls added.
Chad Moller of the athletics department said MU's hands often are tied when it comes to scheduling kickoffs.
“The first thing to understand is that nine times out of 10, times are dictated by TV. You take when TV asks you to,” Moller said. “You’re not going to turn down a TV appearance. There is a $250,000 minimum each TV appearance.”
Moller said that if a game is not chosen for regular television, the athletics department has the option of showing the game on pay-per-view.
“The only options through Fox Sports Net would be evening games. We chose to do two pay-per-view and one not,” Moller said. “You certainly can’t please everybody. We are very aware that the majority of businesses prefer afternoon games. A majority of our fans like to go to evening games. We always try to be sensitive to businesses as much as possible, so we chose the last one to be an afternoon game."
"We try to offer a balance for people,” Moller said.
Kenny Townsend owns McNally's Pub on Sixth Street. He said business is better for day games, but he sees less effect than restaurants do. He said business at his bar has more to do with MU's opponent than with what time the game starts.
“The weaker the opponent, the weaker the business," Townsend said. "The better the opponent, the better the business."
Townsend said the pay-per-view games with McNeese State and San Diego State were great for his bar. "Nobody wanted to pay for the game, so they came here to watch it.”
Matthew Jenne of Sophia’s said business during a home football game with a late start is about one-tenth what he would see during an afternoon game.
“You have to be creative. We’ve been doing this for about 10 years now. We have a pretty good handle on how to plan around those," Jenne said. "We wouldn’t be inclined to take a large-party reservation on a normal Friday or Saturday night, but are more likely to during 6 o’clock games.”
“I would add that we understand that 6 o’clock games are inevitable," Jenne said. "We appreciate that they made the most recent game a 1 o’clock start and gave businesses that revenue. But we’d always like more.”