SOUTH BEND, Ind. — A University of Notre Dame football fan who lives in California recently called a hotel near campus to cancel reservations for rooms booked for his family, who had planned to attend Saturday’s game here against Stanford.
The fan — who holds degrees from both Notre Dame and Stanford and whose family members cheer for both schools — knew he wasn’t going to get a refund because of the policy at the Ivy Court Inn & Suites, said Brandon Gill, the hotel’s general manager. He paid more than $1,800 to book a pair of rooms for two nights, but he didn’t say why he abandoned the trip to South Bend.
“He said he wasn’t coming out, but I have a long waiting list and it wasn’t hard to fill his room,” said Gill, whose hotel is fully booked for the weekend.
Before the Notre Dame football season began, many thought the game against Stanford would be one of the season’s best matchups. But given the disappointing 2-4 start for the Fighting Irish, enthusiasm for watching the rivalry matchup has waned among many who bought tickets at face value. Some are scrambling to sell tickets online for less than they bought them.
On Wednesday afternoon, about 1,900 tickets for the game were for sale on StubHub.com. The lowest price for a ticket was $29.98. Tickets for the Stanford game are $125 at face value.
And that’s just one of the effects of the team’s disappointing record.
Hoteliers and restaurateurs are concerned they could see a decline in out-of-town visitors — their bread and butter — for Notre Dame’s remaining home games. Other home games are against the Miami Hurricanes on Oct. 29 and Virginia Tech Hokies on Nov. 19.
Hotels across St. Joseph County average an occupancy rate of at least 90 percent during Notre Dame football weekends, said Rob DeCleene, executive director of Visit South Bend Mishawaka, the county’s visitors bureau. The rate was nearly 90 percent for the Duke game on Sept. 24, which the Fighting Irish lost 38-35 in a nail-biter.
The occupancy rate this weekend, however, is expected to be from 70 to 80 percent, based on a survey conducted Wednesday by the visitors bureau. Even so, DeCleene said, he expects a lot of Californians to attend Saturday’s game. “Any time we play Stanford, not only our alumni base but their fan base travel a long way,” he said.
DeCleene remains upbeat that out-of-town Notre Dame fans — who travel to games from coast to coast — won’t nix hotel reservations. But the impact of the team’s record remains to be seen. “Hopefully it won’t have too much of an impact,” he said.
Mark McDonnell, who owns LaSalle Grill and LaSalle Kitchen & Tavern in South Bend, said plenty of reservations have been made for this weekend at his restaurants by out-of-town visitors. Traffic from visitors for other home games against Miami and Virginia Tech, however, could be slightly slower than usual because of Notre Dame’s record.
“If they only planned to come for the game and not for corporate entertainment, they might not come,” he said.
McDonnell predicted that many Notre Dame fans who live in California, Texas, New York and other states could sell their tickets online for bargain prices to Michiana residents. Part of the out-of-town fan base at home games could be replaced, he said, as thousands of locals “who normally just go to tailgate might buy tickets.”
Peg Dalton, owner of Le Peep, a breakfast and lunch restaurant in South Bend, believes Notre Dame’s disappointing record will have only a nominal impact on area restaurants. “When tickets are staying in town rather than being for visitors, that does change things a little bit on the whole,” she said. “But for each one of us, I think we’ll be impacted very slightly.”
Dalton said the potential loss of visitors could likely be offset by locals who realize the restaurant could be less busy. Many locals “don’t come on football weekends because it’s busy with visitors,” she said. “But when they start hearing about tickets being sold, they’ll probably think they can get into Le Peep on Sunday.”
Source: South Bend Tribune, http://bit.ly/2dfqPe3
Information from: South Bend Tribune, http://www.southbendtribune.com
This is an AP-Indiana Exchange story offered by the South Bend Tribune.