If you’ve ever been at Tampa International Airport on a Friday, you’ll likely see people wearing college apparel waiting for their flight to wherever a person’s school of choice happens to be playing. My destination of choice for football weekend is Tuscaloosa, Alabama, home of the Alabama Crimson Tide.
College football has influenced my fall travel plans for years. Being an Alabama Crimson Tide alumna and a longtime season ticket holder, I travel to Tuscaloosa for three home games on average each season. I’ve also gone to a few games on “neutral ground” (Atlanta and Jacksonville) and two post-season games (the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans and the Capital One Bowl in Orlando).
Sports and sporting events can be big draws for a destination. The National Association of Sports Commissions reported 23.9 million sports visitors in 2011 and $7.68 billion in spending from those visitors. Some visitors may be “day trippers,” while others may stay longer and explore other attractions.
You can imagine that Tuscaloosa is happy to have visitors like myself during football season, who spend money on flights (like Southwest’s Tampa-to-Birmingham route), rental cars (at the Birmingham airport), hotels (either in Tuscaloosa or Birmingham if the hotels are booked), food (on campus, in the stadium or off campus), beverages (bars like The Houndstooth and Egan’s are popular) and souvenirs (from retailers or street vendors). Tuscaloosa on game day is a sight to behold.
Crowds of fans from both teams wander around campus and tailgate before and after the game. If I arrive on campus early enough, I may tour the Paul W. Bryant Museum on campus, where I’m reminded of the University of Alabama’s football history and traditions. And that’s just a regular season game at “home.” Wherever sports fans travel—for a day, a weekend or longer—the local economy gets a nice boost.
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