The city of Oxford and Ole Miss hosted the Oxford Regional as part of the NCAA Baseball Tournament this past weekend, which drew large crowds and generated revenue for several local hotels and restaurants.
Oxford mayor Robyn Tannehill said at the last Board of Aldermen meeting the tournament was a huge success for the city, even though the Rebels lost because the tournament occurred during a slower tourism time for the city.
“This was a great time for our restaurants and hotels,” Tannehill said. “And I certainly hate that the Rebels did not win, but I know that this team will be remembered as a very special group.”
Oxford is no stranger to the pros of sports tourism. Football season is a major source of income for many local businesses due to the influx of people spending money.
Mary Allen Hedges, director of Visit Oxford, believes that timing played a huge role in the surge of visitors this past weekend.
“It was great for businesses and hotels because it was a weekend after students had left, and after graduation things are a little quieter,” Hedges said.
She also believes the large influx of visitors was because due to the fact that there were three other teams playing in the regionals.
“It’s not just Ole Miss fans, but you got all these schools traveling from other places that are within our drive market,” Hedges said. “Their fans wanna come and want to spend the whole weekend.”
Although tourists coming to Oxford for a sporting event primarily travel to either participate or watch sports, Hedges said they often end up eating at local restaurants or going to local tourist attractions.
“In between games, visitors want to explore the Square, go shopping, eat in restaurants, and visit William Faulkner’s home,” Hedges said. “So there is an aspect to it that you are primarily here for the baseball game, but you end up kind of making more of a trip out of it and doing other things.”
Food is a huge part of sports tourism, which opens up many opportunities for Oxford’s bars, restaurants, bakeries and cafes.
Matt Chambley, manager at Old Venice Pizza Company, said his restaurant is mostly packed during baseball weekends, especially with the Southeastern Conference having one of the best baseball fan bases in the country. Chambley also said the regional tournament drew a lot of people to the restaurant.
“There is definitely a huge customer influx, that helps us out, and there is definitely a revenue increase when it comes to baseball (season),” Chambley said.
Old Venice also sells pizza at baseball games, which requires a lot of planning, but generates a lot of revenue for the business.
“It does put a little strain on us, logistically getting our product over there to the baseball field,” Chambley said. “But that’s also another source of revenue for us, so we do really good business (at baseball games).”
Chambley also said selling pizza at the baseball game is also really good for Old Venice Pizza Company’s advertisement.
“That night or the next night (tourists) might come see us on the Square because of the business we did with them at the ball field,” Chambley said.
With the end of baseball season, Chambley admitted that things do tend to slow down until students return in August.
“Our lunch goes up a little bit in the summer because some of the locals who usually don’t have time during the year show up.”
Other businesses like Ya Ya’s Frozen Yogurt Shop remain quite busy during the summer months but are appreciative of the baseball season.
“We actually stay pretty busy during the summer,” said Amanda Hawkins, manager at Ya Ya’s Frozen Yogurt Shop. “The kids are out of school, and it’s just a lot busier during the day than at night.”
Hawkins also noticed an increase in customers during baseball season and during the baseball tournament.
“It’s just about like football season,” Hawkins said. “(Baseball season) gets really, really crowded around here.”