Chapel Hill, N.C. — Business organizers in Chapel Hill have started a campaign to bolster the community with economic activity and Tar Heel spirit on game-day weekends.
The goal of “Touch Downtown Chapel Hill” is to encourage football fans – locals and visitors – to come early and stay late after the games to enjoy local restaurants, specialty stores and other cultural attractions.
According to a recent economic impact study conducted by Dr. Nathan Tomasini of the VCU Center for Sports Leadership, the 2008 North Carolina-Notre Dame football game generated $6.4 million for the Chapel Hill and Orange County economies plus $325,000 in local and state tax revenue.
With seven home games on the schedule for this year, the total economic impact could be more than $40 million and more than $2 million in local and state tax revenue, according to officials.
Managers said the campaign helped encourage people to stop by their business downtown on Saturday for the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s season opener against The Citadel.
As part of the effort, local merchants and restaurants were encouraged to have employees wear clothing with UNC logos and put UNC and Citadel flags in front of their businesses.
For the second year, the Carolina Inn hosted a tailgate party on its front porch.
“UNC football…it’s huge,” said Allal Kartaoui, assistant food beverage director for the Carolina Inn.
For the entire Labor Day weekend, managers at Carolina Inn say they're fully booked.
Peggy Fitzgerald traveled from Florida to join the party in Chapel Hill. Fitzgerald said there is a family rivalry – her cousin, Stokes Fishburne, is a graduate of Citadel.
“They rag on me all the time. I’m used to it,” Fishburne said.
Managers at restaurant and bar Top of the Hill hope the city’s marketing campaign attracts people days before the big games.
While the restaurant and bar has long played host to the game day crowd, manager Steven Torchio said they have felt the effects of the economy.
“Nobody is immune. I don’t think there’s any business or any place in this town,” Torchio said.