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Area hotels booked and bustling

Katie Perry | Friday, September 8, 2006

Football fans seeking a hotel room for the home opener this weekend might have better luck sleeping on Charlie Weis’ couch – or in the extra bedroom of a complete stranger, for that matter.

There are no more rooms available at the Days Inn of South Bend or the Super 8 Motel in Mishawaka. The Waterford Estates Lodge and the Courtyard by Marriott, both in South Bend, have been full for “a very long time.” The Howard Johnson has been sold out for six months, and the Jamison Inn has been sold out for a year.

At every area hotel, motel, inn and lodge, the story is the same one – “We’re completely booked.”

Gina Schumacher, director of marketing at the South Bend Marriott, said rooms for this weekend have been sold out for months. On Wednesday, rooms were available for $189. Those fans lucky enough to secure rooms for this weekend will be charged $699 a night, Schumacher said.

The Marriott fixes its football weekend rates depending on the game and popularity of the opponent, she said. Prices this season range from $449 to $699 a night, with the Penn State and UCLA games priced highest.

Dave Azinger, general manager of the Ramada Inn of Elkhart, said cancellations have freed up a handful of rooms in his hotel, but rooms sold out more than a year ago.

“We were 54 rooms overbooked a year ago for the Penn State game, but we knew [some] people wouldn’t be able to get tickets. In January we finally got even,” he said. “For us over here in Elkhart, that’s good.”

The Ramada Inn is nearly 20 miles from campus. Azinger said the hotel normally charges $99 a night, but on football weekends the price is $229 a night with a two-night minimum stay.

Azinger said the hotel is “in very good shape” – that is, filling fast or nearly sold out – for the Michigan, Purdue, Stanford and UCLA game weekends as well. There are still “a lot” of rooms left for the November North Carolina and Army games, he said.

Azinger said the number of reservations for these games will depend on how the team fares the rest of the season.

“If they play like they did the first quarter last weekend, I’ll probably have more rooms open,” he said. “But if we can go into Purdue undefeated, I’ll have no qualms that we will sell out for all the games.”

Given the unavailability of area hotels, some local residents are offering up their homes or parts of their homes to fans desperate for a place to lay their heads this weekend.

Patricia Kil of South Bend is renting out a room in her home for $350 to $400 for two nights this weekend. For a two-night price of $400, Kil is also renting out her entire lake cottage, which is about 30 minutes from campus.

“I’ve never tried to rent out my house before,” she said. “I thought it would be nice for someone who didn’t have any place to go. We have extra room so I thought, why don’t they come stay?”

Kil said though nobody has contacted her yet, she is hoping last minute ticket-buyers will seize the opportunity. She plans on extending her offer for all home games this season.

Carol Gurson, owner of the Yakety Yak Café in Mishawaka, is renting out the two bedroom apartment above her restaurant and bar this and every home football weekend.

Gurson said she bought the business and apartment space above it last year. Since then, she has completely renovated the upstairs area into a bedroom apartment to be used exclusively for rental during home football weekends at the price of $600 a night.

“When Notre Dame did so well [last year], we saw news reports about people not having hotel rooms and we thought this would be the best thing to do,” she said. “They can stay upstairs and then come down and patronize the bar.”