ACU students, faculty and staff know Homecoming is an exciting, busy weekend full of activities and events – and local businesses share that excitement. Many prepare ahead of time for the traffic families and alumni bring to the community during the weekend.
Nancy Liles, executive director for the Abilene Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, said homecoming celebrations at any of the universities in Abilene are good for the city’s businesses, but that ACU’s Homecoming brings in particularly large numbers.
“For this weekend this year, we’ve figured at about 1,500 people the economic impact will be at about $375,000,” Liles said. “The travel dollar that we’ve put on an out of town visitor is $110 a day per visitor, multiplied then by the number of days that they stay. This includes any kind of attractions they see, meals, hotels, gas and anything else.”
“I think people will see visitors’ impact across the city, but yes, mostly restaurants,” Liles said. “For instance, if there’s a play or what have you, they will go to the restaurants earlier, and then you really see a peak at times at restaurants. But we realize there will be people in town, we know when homecomings will be, and businesses are prepared for that.”
Lytle Land and Cattle Company is among the prepared, with reservations already set for several large groups on Saturday.
“[Business] really does pick up,” said D’Nae Edwards, manager of Lytle Land and Cattle. “We have a lot of large parties, teams and social clubs come in and meet here.”
Edwards said ACU’s Homecoming makes a slightly larger impact on the restaurant’s business than the homecoming weekends of other schools.
“It’s pretty balanced out,” Edwards said. “We do get a lot from each school, but we do definitely get a lot from [ACU]. It’s a bigger school and a big game.”
Just a few miles from campus, Chili’s Bar and Grill is also ready to serve ACU’s Homecoming crowd.
“The way that we always look at it is we look at last year’s sales from that Homecoming, so we already have a good idea of the kind of business we’re going to do this year,” said Brandye Glenn, service manager at Chili’s.
“We have a pretty good feel of how busy we will be,” Glenn said. “We will actually begin to get crowded starting Thursday evening, and it will stay that way until Sunday evening. It’ll be packed pretty much all day long Saturday; we will probably slow down around one when people start to leave for the game, and it’ll pick up again around 5.”
Glenn said she recommends calling 30 minutes before eating out to see what the wait time for a table will be on any day this weekend.
Daniel Rocha, general manager of Sharon’s Barbeque, said the restaurant lovesÂ the extra business homecoming weekends provide.
“I would say ACU’s Homecoming is the busiest one for us,” Rocha said. “Now that school’s started up again, I see a lot more ACU students in here anyway.”
Hotels in Abilene also profit from the business of those visiting from out of town. Many local hotels book rooms months in advance.
“So far we are doing okay, but business is already picking up compared to last year,” said Paul Pawar, general manager of the Holiday Inn Express on Overland Trail.
Pawar explained that Holiday Inn Express has a special ACU nightly rate, since most of its customers choose the hotel for its close proximity to ACU’s campus. Pawar said it is almost fully booked.
Between eating out and relaxing in a hotel, Liles recommends that families from out of town explore Abilene attractions in addition to Homecoming activities.
“The must-do is Frontier Texas,” Liles said. “It’s one of the few museums in the country with life-size holograms. It’s so fun and very interactive.”
“[Families] can obtain so much information now from our website,” Liles said. “There’s a great calendar that tells them what’s going on this weekend. The official visitor’s center is in Frontier Texas, and there are discounts for Abilene visitors.”