Two TV networks are in town. Nearly 600 press passes have been handed out. The downtown Hilton hotel has sought out overflow rooms as far away as Hammond.
And The Chimes has ordered extra alligator meat, a popular choice on its menu and, perhaps not so coincidentally, the mascot of LSU’s opponent.
“I’ll not be a bit surprised if it’s a record day for The Chimes and Varsity,” co-owner Tim Hood said. “We anticipate this one as being as good and somewhat better.”
Even by game day standards, this weekend’s high-profile game at LSU is turning into a perfect storm for Baton Rouge merchants.
LSU, 5-0 and sporting its first No. 1 ranking in The Associated Press poll in nearly 50 years, hosts ninth-ranked Florida in what is perhaps the highest profile game so far this season.
How big is the game? Never mind the stadium holds 93,000. Maj. Lawrence Rabalais of the LSU Police Department said the Florida game could draw 140,000 fans, which would top the estimated 130,000 at the Virginia Tech game last month.
Making an impact
LSU economist Loren Scott, who has done studies for the LSU Athletic Department on the economic impact of LSU football games, said the LSU-Florida game will be a boon for merchants.
Scott also cited the exposure the city gets by being featured in the national media outlets.
Shows such as ESPN’s “Gameday” at LSU on Saturday and CBS morning show segments today, he said, “are almost totally positive information about what it’s like to come to the Baton Rouge area.”
“At this stage of the season … (fans) are happy and jovial, and when they’re happy and jovial they tend to spend more money,” Scott said.
“It actually begins Thursday,” Matherne said. For this weekend, “We don’t know what to expect,” he admitted Thursday afternoon. “I figure we’ll be running like crazy trying to keep up, especially with libations.”
Brandon Landry, co-owner of Walk-Ons restaurant on the south side of LSU, said beer vendors are sending in refrigerated trucks to keep up with tailgaters.
His employees have spent the week draining ice makers from the other downtown restaurants he owns with business partner Jack Warner.
“We’ve had some big games,” Landry said. “But I don’t think we’ve ever seen what we’re gonna see this weekend.”
Beer provider Mockler Beverage Co. and the local Coca-Cola bottling plant are used to big-event weekends. But both beverage companies said they’re expecting brisk sales this weekend.
“We absolutely see a difference in sales on big football weekends,” said Melanie Clark, vice president of marketing for the Gulf Coast Region Coca-Cola Bottling Co. United.
Chris Davis, who handles marketing for Mockler, called it “chaos, but controlled chaos.”
Local hotels said out-of-town fans who didn’t secure a room at least a few months ago were probably out of luck.
But that hasn’t stopped them from calling, said Tina Rance, director of sales and marketing for the Hilton Baton Rouge Capital Center.
She said the hotel has booked corporate apartments as far away as Hammond to handle its overflow demand.
“It’s been a Super Bowl atmosphere for two weeks now,” she said Thursday.
Anna Zebeau, director of sales for the Sheraton Baton Rouge Convention Center Hotel, said other local hotels have called hers asking for extra rooms.
“Everybody is sold out,” she said.
Due to the record crowds expected for the big game tomorrow, and the fact that College Gameday will be broadcasting at 9:00am, you might want to get out to Tiger Stadium early tomorrow! The atmosphere is going to be electric! Let's just hope the forecast is wrong and it doesn't rain.
Geaux Tigers!!! Mmmm, Fried Gator... Tastes Like Chicken!!!