Local economy wins big in football

Daniel Sanchez

Longhorn fans may not be sitting where they thought they would be at the start of the season with a 4-2 record and a No. 19 ranking in the BCS, following a surprising 34-12 loss to underdog UCLA and a mistake-filled loss to Oklahoma, but win or lose — home football games mean money for Austin businesses.

In its home opener against the University of Wyoming Cowboys, Texas set an attendance record of 101,339 — the second largest crowd at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium ever, trailing the 2009 game against Kansas, which drew 101,357 fans.

“The way that we talk about it is we have eight Christmases,” said Brian Jewell, vice president of marketing of the University Co-op. “We have one on Dec. 25 and then we have one every home game day.”

During the weekend of the Wyoming game, the Co-op on Guadalupe Street turned in a six-figure profit, Jewell said.

“Not only does it bring us sales but again, let’s remember, every time we sell something, that gives us an opportunity to give back to the University,” Jewell said. “That’s really where the biggest impact eventually happens. The more you buy from us, the more we’re able to give back in gifts, grants, rebates, scholarships, donations and those types of things.”

A portion of these sales come from out-of-town alumni such as Matt Shaunty, a 1992 graduate of the University from Houston.

Shaunty said he has been a season ticket holder for 15 years. He took his three kids and two family friends from Panama to watch the surprise loss to UCLA. Over the weekend, he spent two nights at a hotel with three rooms at $200 a night per room. On average, he said, he spent $60 a meal and a couple hundred more on UT gear at the Co-op — in addition to gas.

“It’s just a great experience to share with your kids because we had such a great time here growing up,” Shaunty said. “It’s just a fun way to get away, spend a weekend not in front of the TV, not playing video games but just go hang out and be able to see football games together.”

J.V. Cook, co-owner of Posse East Bar and Grill, said alumni looking for a UT hangout similar to when they were students often come to his restaurant during football season.

“We opened in 1971, so we still have a lot of the old regulars that still come, just a little nostalgia and memories, kind of a meeting place for the game,” Cook said. “A lot of them that don’t have tickets will stay here and watch.”

Posse East increases staff and runs an outside beer stand on home game days, counting on their location to help reel in more fans. During the Wyoming game, Posse East quadrupled what they usually make on a Saturday, Cook said.

“It’s only going to happen six or seven times a year, so we have to cash in,” Cook said. “We gotta try to get every penny we can.”

Mike Lapaglia is co-owner of Mike and Mike’s — a small, local catering business which also runs a hotdog stand that is stationed on 24th and Guadalupe streets on game days. Lapaglia said since he started the business with his son a year ago, he has been able to pay all of his bills largely with business from home games. Usually, they are worth two or three times a normal work day.

“I get to meet a lot of people and talk to them,” he said. “For many years, I was in the maintenance of restaurant equipment, fixing ovens and refrigeration. It’s a lot of fun to stand out here and talk with people instead of getting my hands dirty all the time.”

And Jewell said those people love to support the Longhorns.

“Well I don’t think there’s any question throughout all of Austin: Whether it’s restaurants, hotels, nightclubs — the fans coming in for the game are loyal fans and they love to come in town,” Jewell said. “It’s great for the whole community of Austin, the local community and obviously the University of Texas.”