Local businesses missing economic boost from college football, tailgating

Football fans flocking to West Lafayette are a boon for local companies, whether they're renting tents and party equipment or catering meals to tailgaters and even the away team.

Posted: Sep 3, 2020 4:26 PM
Updated: Sep 4, 2020 12:12 PM

TIPPECANOE COUNTY, Ind. (WLFI) - No Purdue University football season means no tailgating. That's hurting local companies that cater to game day fans.

"Ever since March, we've had, initially, it was devastating," says Amber Caudill, manager of Midwest Rentals on the south side of Lafayette.

Business has been slow for the party and event rental outfit since the stay-at-home orders took effect in March. The cancellation of the college football season has been another blow.

"Tailgate was quite a big process so we've missed out on a lot of events especially with Purdue being cancelled and football being gone," Caudill says.

Football fans flocking to West Lafayette are a boon for local companies, whether they're renting tents and party equipment or catering meals to tailgaters and even the away team.

"We've served, you know, people in the lot," says Patrick Johnson, owner of D&R BBQ at the corner of Creasy and South streets. "You know, good, stout, Purdue, loyal fans. Go Purdue, you know. We've had the occasion to take care of the other team. Sorry to say but, you know, their money's green, too."

Johnson was hoping for a busy football season this year after several tough months when the state was closed for business.

"All I get to do is accept the results and look for ways to market within that."

The restaurant and catering business is offering curbside service. Johnson is encouraging fans to find new ways to get together, including picking a new favorite team to follow with friends and food. 

"We're doing these things so we can get on the other side of this and resume a normal life," he says. 

Caudill says Midwest Rentals has added a drive-through option and is renting tents to Purdue for outdoor dining and study spaces.

"We've had to buy new inventory for that so it's actually done pretty well."

There's talk of getting the Big Ten football season back on track. Johnson says he doesn't envy the officials who have to make these decisions, but he's keeping his fingers crossed.

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