- It’s Alabama versus Auburn this Saturday in Tuscaloosa.
- It’ll be the Crimson Tide’s fifth home game of the season — down from seven.
- But fewer home games and fans due to COVID-19 restrictions mean big financial losses for Alabama football and Tuscaloosa businesses.
Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa. It’s just days before the Alabama-Auburn game — one of the biggest college football rivalries.
The stadium holds nearly 102,000 fans. But only about 20,000 can go inside due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Brittney and Kyle Paeth are sister and brother. They’re going to their first Alabama football game during the pandemic.
“It’s been hard not going to any of the games when I’m used to going to all of them. So, I’m just excited to finally go to a game and see the new stadium,” said Brittney Paeth.
“I think it’s definitely going to be a little weird. Especially the stadium not being as loud as it normally is for kickoffs and when we score. I think it’s going to be a cool experience though,” said Kyle Paeth.
The University of Alabama athletics department said it’s facing a potential $75 million revenue shortfall. It made more than $16 million in budget cuts. There have been no pay cuts or furloughs. The department limited expenditures to essential purchases and imposed a hiring freeze except for coaches. The department also implemented a compensation containment plan.
Samuel Addy, Ph.D., the University of Alabama’s associate dean for economic development outreach, said that the seven home games last year generated nearly $137 million dollars in economic impact for the Tuscaloosa area.
But he projects at least an 80% drop due to fewer games, fewer fans, and fewer people spending money.
David Jones is the owner of Alabama Express. His business sells sportswear and souvenirs. Sales are down more than 87 percent this year.
“Scared. Just worried about my employees and what they might have to do. I do not plan on shutting down, but it’s been tough and worrisome,” Jones said.
At Buffalo Phil’s restaurant, game day sales have been cut in half.
“It’s a real bummer. I’ve got to deal with the cards that are dealt and just manage what we have and maximize what we have in front of us,” said general manager Christian Pierce.
“I doubt if we’ll make any money this year. We’re just doing the best we can and keep everybody on the payroll that we can. We’ve been blessed, so we’ll be OK,” Jones said.