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Notre Dame-Ohio State game brings in record revenue

| Friday, September 29, 2023

While the Notre Dame vs. Ohio State game last Saturday generated heartbreak for Irish fans, it also generated record revenue for the campus economy.

University Enterprises and Events (UEE) director of marketing Jennifer Heckel said the UEE division, which oversees all event hospitality and most retail establishments like the bookstore and campus dining, broke its previous record set the weekend of last year’s Stanford game with a 25% increase.

UEE does not publish its total revenue, but a 2018 report from the University estimates the average home football weekend generates $26 million in visitor spending. The University is currently updating the report, University spokesperson Sue Ryan said.

The bookstore had a record weekend, according to Heckel. Demand was up 68% from Central Michigan, and all Notre Dame vs. Ohio State gameday merchandise sold out by Thursday.

Vice president for campus safety and University operations Mike Seamon said the University estimates last weekend to be the busiest football weekend on record.

Seamon said parking and traffic are key indicators of gauging crowd size.

Friday was by far the busiest football Friday we have seen since we can remember. Iconic places like the Main Building, the Basilica and the Grotto were crowded all afternoon. Our parking was completely filled by midday and places like the bookstore and dining outlets were consistently crowded,” he said in an email. “On Saturday, parking had extremely high numbers from the moment the lots opened at 8:00am through midday. We had parked over 10,000 vehicles on campus by 4:00pm.”

Both teams ranking in the top-10, the presence of ESPN’s College GameDay and The Pat McAfee Show and the driving proximity of Ohio State’s campus contributed to the business, he said.

“The attendance around both The Pat McAfee Show on Friday and ESPN GameDay indicated this was one of the biggest attendance home football weekends in memory,” Seamon said. “The sold-out stadium filled much quicker than usual, including the student section, given the excitement surrounding the game.”

Local hotels and rentals saw large business and price spikes. Executive director of Visit South Bend Mishawaka Jeff Jarnecke said 94% of the 5,400 hotel rooms in St. Joseph County were booked. 

Rooms went for an average of $580 per night, Jarnecke said, with some going for triple that rate. Some hotels set three-night minimums to capitalize on the demand.

By comparison, the average daily hotel rate for the area sits around $110. And for the average home football weekend, about 70% of hotel rooms are booked. While the nature of a night game contributes to an increase in hotel occupancy, the demand last weekend was nonetheless massive, Jarnecke said.

“Just a huge, huge weekend overall in terms of the hotel occupancy side,” he said.

Weekend rentals through platforms like Airbnb and Vrbo saw a lower occupancy rate than expected, but prices were still sky-high, Jarnecke said.

He said St. Joseph County peaked at 1,400 short-term rentals available for rent on Friday and Saturday night. About 50% of them were booked at an average rate of $855 per night.

Jarnecke said the rental prices may have priced some people out of the short-term rental market. 

“We would have thought that number might have been a little bit stronger than 50%, but not everybody’s looking for a short-term rental — that’s still a growing audience for sure,” he said. “And at that price point, we price some people out of the market when they would rather stay in a hotel and pay a different rate than what you might pay for a full house.”

Jarnecke said the lodging industry in St. Joseph County brought in an estimated $10 million last weekend.

Shouldering counties LaPorte, Elkhart and Marshall feel the demand for home games, as well. Jarnecke said the majority of hotel rooms in the three neighboring counties were booked.

“The impact can’t even just be felt within St. Joseph County,” Jarnecke said. “The impact of University of Notre Dame on a big event weekend and specifically a football weekend stretches well outside of St. Joseph County.”

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About Ryan Peters

Ryan is a senior formerly in Knott Hall from Lake Forest, Illinois. He is majoring in business analytics and minoring in constitutional studies. He currently serves as Managing Editor for The Observer. Follow him on Twitter @peterrsryan.

Contact Ryan