On Tuesday, the New Mexico Bowl announced that it would be taking place this year in Frisco’s Toyota Stadium due to New Mexico’s current guidelines surrounding intercollegiate athletics and travel.
For Frisco, hosting sporting events could serve as a way to bring in funds as the city moves through the COVID-19 pandemic.
“That's obviously our goal is to get some of these events and safely host them in our city,” said Josh Dill, Visit Frisco’s sports and events director. “It's kind of a strategy for us in the short term.”
The city recently hosted a hockey tournament and is slated to host another that was recently moved from Blaine, MN. The same hockey group has a February event scheduled in Michigan that may not be able to take place, Dill said, and Frisco is looking to host that event as well.
“Typically, you wouldn't see a group that's booked somewhere else move like this,” Visit Frisco Executive Director Marla Roe said. “It's truly having to do with COVID and restrictions in other states that we don't have here.”
Events like conventions and business meetings aren’t occurring as corporations choose not to host those types of events, Dill said.
“But on the sports side, if you have parents and families that are used to traveling, especially hockey families that want to be a part of these events, and they feel safe traveling to them, they have great protocols in place and our facilities have great protocols in place,” he said. “So we think we can host them.”
A bowl game stands to bring about $1.1 million to the city this year, Dill said. During previous years, that number would have been closer to $3.5 million, but reduced seating capacity and smaller travel parties have contributed to reducing the projected economic impact of bowl game events. However, hotels hosting a team stand to earn about $40,000 in revenue during the event, Dill said.
“So when our hospitality, our hotel partners are hurting right now, this is, I think, a huge win for those hotel partners to kind of see that,” he said.
A hockey tournament comprising four-night hotel stays could mean a $1.8 million economic impact, Dill said, with roughly $160,000 in revenue for hotels.
“So those are the kind of things that help keep our hotels operating, keeps their staff employed and keeps the money flowing into the city that wouldn't exist there without these events,” Dill said.
Frisco’s hotel occupancy tends to spike on weekends and around holidays, Dill said. The city’s midweek hotel occupancy, which used to be strong, is much lower, Dill said. Since the local onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Frisco’s hotel occupancy has remained lower than usual.
“Our occupancy looks like a little bit of a heart beat monitor,” Dill said. “But we want to see that heartbeat kind of get stronger and stronger as we host these events safely. And I think once we get a few of them under our belt and people see that we can do that without seeing crazy numbers or anything come out of the event, I think that's going to build that confidence in the event owners and the travelers to start getting back out there a little bit more.”