Tom Fielder said the recent success of Arkansas State University on the gridiron has benefitted his Jonesboro business.
Fielder, who owns Fat City Steak and Grillhouse in Jonesboro, said the decision by ASU Wednesday to accept a bid to the GoDaddy bowl in Mobile will definitely be a boost. Arkansas State will play the University of Toledo Rockets in the bowl game slated for Jan. 4, 2015.
“It is always hard to measure (the economic benefit of a bowl game). It is different than a home game,” Fielder said of the traffic in his restaurant.
However, Fielder said the game gives fans an opportunity to go out and watch the game as well as visiting friends.
He also said televising the game on ESPN on Jan. 4 gives fans who may not be able to get a ticket an opportunity to see their team and it draws them in the restaurant.
“The only thing that will hurt is that it is a late game,” Fielder said of the 8 p.m. kickoff. “On Sunday nights, we close at 10 p.m. so most people will probably leave at the half. If anything, we need an earlier starting time.”
ASU is making its fourth consecutive trip to the bowl, which features a team from the Sun Belt Conference and a team from the Mid-American Conference.
Earlier this year, ASU and the Delta Center for Economic Development released an economic impact study on the university and its football games.
There were 151,254 tickets sold to football games in 2013, with about a quarter (32,949) of the tickets sold coming from people outside Jonesboro.
The games had a $7.7 million impact on tourism, while 1,900 part-time jobs were created, the study noted.
Fielder said his restaurant sees business go up during football season and especially when a rival is in town.
“Before we had such success, if there was someone like Conway (UCA) or Memphis, we would sell the stadium out,” Fielder said. “Today, if we get 25-30,000 at the stadium, it benefits the entire town,” Fielder said.
Another possible opportunity for economic growth is the NEA basketball tournament. The tournament, which happens during the Christmas break at the ASU Convocation Center, brings fans to Jonesboro.
“It has been good to us. You see a lot out all day,” Fielder said.
In a press release, ASU Athletic Director Terry Mohajir said the opportunity to go to Mobile was great for the university.
“We’re delighted to be a part of this first-class bowl game and can attest that the hospitality shown by the GoDaddy Bowl and city of Mobile is second to none, so we know the tremendous experience ahead for our program and our fans,” Mohajir said.
Mohajir said the bowl game also gives ASU an opportunity to showcase itself on a national stage.
“The GoDaddy Bowl had the second pick in the Sun Belt, and they made it clear they wanted Arkansas State back. That is a great testament to our team, our university, our alumni and our fan base. I cannot express enough how important is for our fans to show up in great numbers as we not only continue our track record of great attendance, but exceed it,” Mohajir said.