Sold out! Battle at Bristol expected to have huge economic impact on region

Zach Vance • Aug 31, 2016 at 5:39 PM

The economic impact of hosting college football’s biggest crowd when the University of Tennessee and Virginia Tech meet is expected to extend well beyond the manufactured gridiron in the center of Bristol Motor Speedway’s midfield.

A study released on March 2015 suggests the Battle at Bristol on Sept. 10 will provide an estimated $125 million direct impact and a $439 million indirect impact to the local economy.

In comparison, the same study showed between 2012 and 2014, both Bristol Motor Speedway and Bristol Dragway totaled a direct impact of $417 million, which was derived from ancillary activities held on-site, charitable events, contributions and tax revenue.

“We are extremely humbled and grateful to the regional community and businesses that set the stage for this kind of impact,” BMS General Manager Jerry Caldwell said when the economic impact figures were announced.

“I think that we have not seen this type of economic impact from the tourism industry from an event at Bristol Motor Speedway since the days of when the Night Race was the absolute ticket that you got to have,” said Brenda Whitson, executive director of Johnson City’s Convention and Visitors Bureau.

While not quite ready to make exact estimates two weeks before kickoff, Whitson said the football game has nearly sold out every hotel room in the city.

“We have maybe one or two rooms that are left, but we feel very confident that all of our hotel rooms will be full,” Whitson said.

“So when you look at a city that’s at capacity as far as hotel rooms are, we’re at over 1,700 hotel rooms just in Johnson City alone. You take the average of 1,700 (hotel) rooms with at least two people in a room (and) that’s at least 3,400. It could be more than that.”

An attempt to book a hotel room almost two weeks away from kickoff will almost certainly prove futile. A quick search on Expedia.com only shows three available hotels for the night of the game, with two being more than 20 miles away from the Speedway.

Positioned about a mile from the racetrack, Shadrack Campground sold all of its 300 sites three months in advance.

“For us, it’s definitely going to be busier for the two days, the Friday and Saturday, than race week simply because most people are going to be showing up on Friday,” said Steve Albright, supervisor at the campground.

Albright said tent sites sold for $100 per night and RV sites sold for approximately $155 per night.

Beth Rhinehart, president of the Bristol Chamber of Commerce, said most hotel rooms in Bristol have been sold out for almost a year.

“This is something that is unprecedented because it certainly brings a crowd of new folks,” Rhinehart said. “I think you have a lot of the NASCAR fans who purchased Battle at Bristol tickets in addition to their NASCAR tickets.

“But you certainly have a new fan base who have never been here potentially, and we want to make sure they have the experience of a lifetime.”

The Bristol Chamber, along with the City of Bristol Tennessee, the City of Bristol Virginia, Discover Bristol and Food City, will cater to those fans during a Battle on the State Line Kickoff and Pep Rally on Sept. 8 and 9.

“The Virginia side of State Street will be decorated in maroon for Virginia Tech and the Tennessee side will be decorated in orange for Tennessee,” Rhinehart said.

Bristol will also host the Brewfest at Bristol on Sept. 8 at the Downtown Center on State Street. The ticketed event will feature music on two stages and more than 40 local and regional breweries, according to the Discover Bristol website.

Flags of each team were already flying down State Street this week.

Tommy McCoy, manager at Macado’s on State Street, said his restaurant will be targeting record sales next week. He added the current record was set during the week of Rhythm and Roots, which will occur the weekend after the Battle at Bristol.

“Absolutely, we’ll have extra staff (in the restaurant). We’ll have outside bars going on,” McCoy said.

Down the street, staff at Phyl’s of Bristol said the sports merchandise store will bring in extra staff and likely stay open later on Thursday and Friday to accommodate the predicted crowds.

Folk Soul Revival will headline a Sept. 8 concert on a stage at the corner of State Street near the Birthplace of Country Music Museum.

Whitson predicts plenty of visitors will be arriving in Johnson City before Sept. 10 and taking advantage of the Tri-Cities’ many amenities.

“There are going to be people who are here early and taking advantage of the Founders After 5, the Bootleg Bash and who will be going out to our restaurants,” Whitson said.

“We will absolutely reap great benefits from this event.”

Whitson said the Johnson City Visitors Bureau would have an estimate of the economic impact sometime next week.

Email Zach Vance at [email protected] Follow Zach Vance on Twitter at @ZachVanceJCP. Like him on Facebook.com/ZachVanceJCP

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