• MBJ-Web-Banner.jpg
  • Regional Impact

    • Share:


    Fall means college football is here again, but the region’s most popular pastime brings more than fun to Montgomery. Learn how the city capitalizes on the South’s favorite game.

    Montgomery packs plenty of team spirit in its borders, as home to three universities with football programs and fans of all stripes. It also plays an important role in the storied football program at nearby Auburn University, hosting the players and coaches the night before every home game – and hosting AU’s opponents. So how does all this pig- skin passion benefit the capital city? Dawn Hathcock, vice president of the Chamber’s Destination MGM & Brand Development team, offered her opinion. “It’s hard to give a precise economic impact number due to the way the schedules vary and who is playing where,” she said. “But I would say each football season can generate an economic impact here that is in the millions of dollars.”

    Our neighbor to the east plays a large part. Since it’s only 40 miles away from Auburn University in Auburn, Montgomery is the natural choice for a locale that gets the team and coaches away from the excitement and crowds that pack Auburn on home game weekends. The Tigers spend Friday nights at The Renaissance Hotel & Spa at The Convention Center downtown and do their best to relax and prepare for the coming competition. General Manager Perry Grice and his team do their best to adequately host these big (literally and figuratively!) guests. “We block off rooms for them that are away from the rest of our guests,” Grice said. “We want it nice and quiet where they are.”

    This arrangement is obviously lucrative for the hotel, but the rooms booked by the team have a positive effect on the entire city thanks to lodging and gas taxes, extra money spent, and more. And just across the street, Auburn’s opponents bed down at The Embassy Suites Hotel & Montgomery Conference Center. These teams’ fans often choose Montgomery too. “The fans of the visiting teams also like to stay in town. On a big SEC rivalry weekend, it’s not unusual for our hotels to be sold out citywide,” said Hathcock.

    On top of the money Auburn and its games bring here, there are two other colleges close by, as well as the three Montgomery-based colleges with football programs. They all benefit the city. “We get teams that are playing ASU, Troy, Huntingdon, Faulkner, Tuskegee and Auburn staying in Montgomery, plus, some of their fans, on any given Saturday during the season,” Hathcock said.

    The positive effects of football here go beyond the dollars spent and taxes re- mitted. The intangibles are important too, as Hathcock explained. “It creates a very festive atmosphere when you have all of these fans out and about in your town,” she said. “It’s fun.”

      Blossoming Bowls  

    In 2014, the first ESPN Raycom Media Camellia Bowl was played in Montgomery, putting the capital city on college football’s map with an exciting post-season game. Played in historic Cramton Bowl, which has been hosting gridiron action for almost a century (including University of Alabama home games in the 1920s), the bowl is named after Alabama’s showy state flower. Each December, the Camellia Bowl brings teams from the Sun Belt Conference and the Mid-American Conference for one last bout of intense competition before they hang up their helmets for the year.

    According to the bowl’s Executive Director Johnny Williams, the Camellia Bowl is something special. “The history in Montgomery is incredible. To be able to take a student-athlete, who may never have visited Montgomery or Alabama, to the Rosa Parks Museum, is a special opportunity. We’re able to share the civil rights history as well as the sports history of Cramton Bowl,” he said. “We’re also able to provide the student-athletes, coaches and fans with great food and southern hospitality among the other perks of being in a bowl game.” The game is televised on ESPN and drew more than 7,000 fans in person and far more viewers in its first year. And it’s still growing. Williams stressed why Montgomery visitors and residents should check out the next bowl. “Our goal is to create a unique college football experience that you can’t get anywhere else.”

    So far, they’ve succeeded, according to Hathcock. “Fans and players are loving this bowl, and it can fill our hotels in a time that is normally not very busy, so it is?a definite boost to the local economy,” she said. “In the first year, we saw about a $15 million economic impact over the year before the bowl was here, and this rise has continued to stay steady.”

    The city is poised to rack up more positive points since it recently scored another bowl game, the Guardian Kick-Off Classic, which features Jacksonville State playing UT Chattanooga on August 26. Plus, the city hosts the return of the intense ASU versus Tuskegee game over Labor Day weekend. “We expect big returns from all of these,” Hathcock said


    The teams slated to play Auburn spend the night before game day in Montgomery, and when Texas A&M is in town, its fans carry out their tradition, the famous “midnight yell,” at the SandBAR, on the banks of the Alabama River downtown. Hundreds of fans gather for this late but loud and rowdy pep rally that gets them all fired up and lets them practice cheers and chants for the next day.

    By the Numbers

    On game days, the college football programs based in Montgomery often pack their respective houses with thousands of residents but also thousands of visitors.

    Stadium capacity: 6,000

    Stadium capacity: 2,000 

    Stadium capacity: 26,500

    Leave a Comment
    * Required field

  • Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce
    600 S. Court St, P.O. Box 79
    Montgomery, Alabama 36101
    Tel: 334.834.5200   Fax: 334.265.4745

  • Receive the latest announcements and updates.

iStock-499134200 [Converted]