Oregon State University’s Athletics Department announced on Aug. 11 that all fall sports will be cancelled, which is predicted to cause a wide-spread decline in revenue amongst local Corvallis, Ore. businesses.
Restaurants, hotels and shopping outlets will have their own reaction to the lack of students eating before games, shopping for merchandise and opposing teams staying in Corvallis hotels.
“I think people forget that Corvallis without the students is about half the size,” said Kate Porsche, economic development coordinator for the City of Corvallis. “That’s a big change just in terms of the quantity of people who are here visiting businesses. So, that changed a lot in and of itself.”
With COVID-19 shutdowns, local businesses have experienced losses of revenue merely from lack of travel during the spring months. Now, those same businesses that were relying on the boost of students coming back to campus for fall term are left finding different ways to make up for the expected losses.
One of these businesses is American Dream Pizza, a local pizza restaurant directly off campus on Northwest Monroe Avenue.
“Football weekends are some of the biggest revenue weekends of the year,” said Scott McFarland, co-founder of American Dream.
McFarland noted that the restaurant will continue to keep outdoor dining available for as long as the weather permits, but once they are back to take-out only, they will rely on community-based support.
“Any time you have the opportunity to shop local or downtown, 95% of that is staying local,” said Simon Date, president of the Corvallis Chamber of Commerce.
Although residents can make the conscious decision to eat at locally-owned restaurants, other aspects of the city’s decline in revenue will be more difficult to support without fall sports.
In the past year, there has been a 77.1% drop in total hotel revenue from June of 2019 to June of 2020, with the trend expected to continue throughout the fall.
“When people see football being cancelled, soccer, or whatever, it’s not just about the activity at Reser Stadium,” Date said. “It’s the residual stuff that’s going to kill Corvallis. The ability for [people] to spend money in hotels, and things like that.”
According to Patrick Rollens, public information officer for the City of Corvallis, local lodging lost approximately $2.1 million in revenue, due to the fact that the hotel occupancy often mirrors that of university activities, including game days, parent weekends and other conferences that require travel into Corvallis.
In order to help these businesses stay afloat, the city is introducing two grants for those who didn't qualify for other state grants in the past. The first grant is currently open for applications and is available to businesses with less than 25 employees.
The first grant of $75,000 will be distributed amongst those who apply, and the second grant that opens this month will give out $215,000 to businesses with the same qualifications of the first.
“This is aimed at our really small businesses, many folks that weren’t eligible to apply for [the Paycheck Protection Program] or [the Economic Injury Disaster Loan] or are sole proprietors, they can apply for this,” Porsche said. “We’re just looking for creative ways to help our businesses in any way that we can.”