AUSTIN (KXAN) — A sold-out DKR Texas Memorial Stadium means tens of thousands of people descending onto Austin donning burnt orange and crimson.
The weekend’s main attraction, of course, is the University of Texas showdown against the University of Alabama on the football field. But the City of Austin is poised to reap huge benefits, too.
Visit Austin uses hotel bookings as an economic gauge for the city.
They said a comparable weekend would be the Saturday of the Louisiana State University game in 2019.
“Both September games, both big, SEC, top-ranked opponents,” said Drew Hays, director of Visit Austin’s sports commission.
He said on that Saturday, hotels in the Central Business District had close to 98% occupancy with an average daily rate upward of $400.
“So, 12,000 hotel rooms downtown at that time at 98% full. Obviously a great weekend, and we expect similar numbers for Alabama,” he said.
Compare that to the next busiest Saturday UT game in 2019 when the Longhorns played Oklahoma State: 93% occupancy with $90 less of an average daily hotel room rate.
“We are expecting the average daily rate to be comparable to 2019, if not higher than LSU,” said Hays.
For many fans on either side of the line, part of the draw is Austin.
“Being back here, my heart is happy,” said Katie Weishaar, visiting from Los Angeles. “I missed campus. I missed… Austin.”
Her family scheduled their campus visit for a prospective UT student to coincide with the big game.
“We wanted to come to the ‘Bama game. So, we planned the tour to be the same weekend, so that we could hit them both at the same time,” Weishaar said.
She plans to hit her favorite restaurants while here.
“We’re trying to do reservations if we can or trying to go early enough that it’s not going to be too crazy or packed,” she said.
Alan and Kaye Heins from Tuscaloosa, Alabama also have an itinerary planned besides supporting the Crimson Tide.
“We’ve got some recommendations for… barbecue, brisket is on the agenda. But we also got recommendations for kayaking at the park,” Alan said.
The Heins said they’re season ticket holders and go to every Alabama home game.
“I’m a two-time alum from the University of Alabama. I have an undergraduate and a doctoral degree from there. And so, longtime fan,” Kaye explained.
They’d never been to Austin before.
“We usually try to catch the one away game, and we came to this one this year, because we had never been to Austin before, it’d been on our list,” Kaye said.
That’s exactly what Visit Austin said will make for a great weekend for bars, restaurants, hotel and retail.
There’s also a ripple effect with large scale events like this downtown called hotel compression.
“Meaning, once downtown hotels are at capacity, that means opportunities for hotels outside of downtown also benefit. You might find hotel rates over $250 for the Domain area and over $200 for Four Points area near Lake Travis,” said Hays.
He also said media coverage of this event is doubling compared to usual games.
“ESPN’s College Gameday and Fox’s Big Noon Kickoff shows are in town, and UT released that they typically average 300 media credential requests, where they could be close to double that for the Alabama game,” he explained. “That means the spotlight will be not only on the Longhorns, but also the city.”
Hays also sees a long-term impact, expecting UT’s transition to the SEC to bring in new fan bases that haven’t ever experienced Austin before.
“Sports are big business,” he said. “We are excited by the new conference as the SEC fan bases travel well and will provide additional opportunities for high-level match-ups with some of college football’s top-ranked programs.”