NORMAN — On Saturday, the Sooner Nation will deck itself in crimson and cream, while the Fighting Irish will wear gold and navy. But for Norman businesses, the colors of the day will be crimson and green ... as in greenbacks.
The Norman Convention and Visitors Bureau estimates that between $6 million and $8 million new dollars will flow into the Norman economy because of the Notre Dame game.
But money isn’t the whole picture. The level of national exposure for the city and for the Sooners is a long-term byproduct.
“The prominence of Norman on a national stage with the likes of ESPN GameDay and ABC highlighting the storied traditions of OU is always good for business and our community at large,” Norman Chamber of Commerce President John Woods said. “Notre Dame has great traveling fans, and we expect this game to have a higher economic return for Norman than any in recent history. Hopefully Notre Dame fans will be in good spending spirits even after going home with their first loss of the season.”
The NCVB reports that “Norman’s hotels, motels, and beds and breakfasts have been at capacity since mid-July and we’ve been directing calls to Moore for overflow since then.”
“It’s hard to measure the difference between Florida A&M, Kansas State and Kansas for our hotel occupancy because the traveling OU fans fill up the rooms almost every home game weekend,” NCVB Communications Manager Stefanie Brickman said. “However, the biggest difference this week will be the exposure that Norman will have because of ESPN’s GameDay appearance. There are ample opportunities to showcase Norman to that loyal audience who tunes in to see the program each Saturday and have the spotlight shine on our city.”
Local hotels say the weekend is about more than just booked rooms.
“We are always excited over game weekends here in Norman and the Embassy Suites, not only from an economic impact perspective for our entire community and surrounding area but also for the level of energy and enthusiasm it brings to Norman,” Embassy Suites General Manager Michael Vance said. “This weekend with Notre Dame seems to be especially so. We’ve been sold out for months and are now gearing up to welcome fans from across the country.
“Our goal will be to extend a warm welcome and a dose of Oklahoma hospitality for what, no doubt, will be a memorable weekend for all of our guests,” Vance said.
People from across the country already have started checking in.
“It’s kind of crazy already. We’re getting tons of calls from former players and everybody looking for a favor. We’ve been on a wait since the day after it was announced,” said Doug Kennon, owner of Sooner Legends. “We’ve literally turned away at least 3,000 requests for rooms.”
One group of guys from Baltimore who are Sooner fans checked in Monday, Kennon said.
“They call themselves the O.U. East Coast Mafia,” Kennon said.
Just what can Irish fans expect?
“My sister and brother-in-law traveled to South Bend in 1999 and had a great experience with the Notre Dame fans welcoming their traveling group of Sooner fans to various events in and around the game,” the NCVB’s Brickman said. “It would be great for Norman’s image with the Notre Dame travelers to have the same kind of welcome in Norman. After all, they could be so enthralled with our great city to want to come back again and see our museums and other attractions.”