Mercer University’s new football program reaches far beyond the limits of Mercer’s campus. Downtown Macon businesses will also feel the effects of Mercer’s return to the pigskin sport. Tailgating will expand from Mercer’s campus with the help of local businesses as well as the Macon City Council.
“Anything that brings thousands of people into the downtown area is potentially a good thing for downtown merchants. Many Mercer alumni will stay in downtown hotels and eat in downtown restaurants,” said Mercer University President William Underwood.
“Beyond this, my hope is that the return of NCAA Division I football to our community will contribute to making Macon an even more attractive place for creative, talented and entrepreneurial young people to live, work and play,” he said.
Roger Riddle, Marketing Director for The Rookery, Dovetail and The Moonhanger group said, “I think all of downtown will see a boost before and after the Mercer home games. It’s only natural to go out and get pumped up before the game and either celebrate or cry on a buddy’s shoulder after the game.
The closest places to the stadium will see the most business, so downtown and Mercer Village will come alive.”
The Rookery is offering specials to Mercer fans. “We are even offering a free Market Sampler or Spicy Pimento Cheese Dip appetizer to anyone who comes in wearing Mercer gear,” said Riddle. “Mercer football has the whole city buzzing. We are looking at each week as a celebration of the university and the city of Macon.”
Along with the impact for downtown businesses, other organizations are participating in the tailgating.
Main Street Macon will also be hosting a tailgating event at Cherry Street Plaza. From their Facebook page: “Join Main Street Macon, NewTown Macon and the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame and get ready to cheer on the Mercer Bears! Bring your tents and table and get your groove on with the A2Z Band! Plenty of free parking and the Macon Transit Authority will take you to and from the stadium for only $2 per person.”
Also at the Cherry Street Plaza tailgate, Main Street Macon’s Facebook page says they will “be showing football games all day both inside and outside on the big screen thanks to Buddy Lovell and we have face-painting for kids of all ages.”
Macon City Council even passed an ordinance to allow open containers of alcohol in parts of downtown Macon. According to “The Telegraph,” “the ordinance allows plastic cups or aluminum cans, but no glass bottles, in the designated areas from 10 a.m.-8 p.m. on game days.”
From “The Telegraph:” “Main Street Macon Director Mechel McKinley said the eight home football games are expected to have a minimum of $6.5 million in total economic impact. At the home games, a tailgating event with live music is planned for Cherry Street Plaza, and Macon Transit Authority will run $2 shuttles from tailgating areas to the new Mercer University Stadium.”
City councilman Tom Ellington said, “We really have to wait for the first game to know for sure what the impact is, but this is a very exciting time for Macon. We expect a lot of people to come downtown and to the Mercer Village area. Mercer and city employees have been hard at work for months to make sure that we are ready for the influx of people next Saturday. I expect Mercer football to have a big positive impact on our local businesses and to be a great time for everybody who comes to a game.”