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For Blacksburg businesses no fans for college football might as well mean no football at all

Virginia Tech study pegged out-of-town fan spending at $69 million in a single season

BLACKSBURG, VA. – Many football fans rejoiced when they learned Virginia Tech will play home games this fall. But the question remains, will fans be allowed to fill Lane Stadium to watch?

For area businesses, no fans might as well mean no football at all.

There’s an energy in Blacksburg when Hokie Football is home on a crisp fall day. Cabo Fish Taco is on Main Street, and manager Richard Barrar will tell you it’s impossible to miss.

“It’s going to hurt not having 70,000 people come to town ready to have a great time, come out to eat, come out to drink, come out and enjoy Blacksburg and everything we have to offer,” Barrar said.

Blacksburg businesses’ profits connect directly to Virginia Tech football. Fans were relieved when the ACC announced they’ll play this fall, but for many what fans do off the field is bigger than what happens on it.

Casey Jenkins is the Executive Director of Downtown Blacksburg Inc.

“It’s cautious optimism because the big question for many folks is the capacity of Lane Stadium,” Jenkins said. “You won’t have them come down to the retail and the restaurants, they won’t be eating and shopping, because they’ll enjoy their football game but many of them will still do it from the comfort of their couches somewhere, which doesn’t help local business communities.”

In 2015, a Virginia Tech study found out-of-town fans injected $69 million into the local economy in a single season. That’s why no matter how many fans Virginia Tech ends up allowing, it’ll likely still be a loss. Jenkins said it’s a catch-22, but at the end of the day, it’s about safety.

“All that is going to come first and so whatever decision Virginia Tech makes on the capacity of their stadium we will certainly understand because that is our first priority,” Jenkins said.

Cabo has been taking it a day at a time since the pandemic began and while Barrar said it’s a bummer, they’ll weather the storm.

“We have all the locals who have been supporting us this whole time which we’re super thankful for and we’re going to keep following the rules and making the best out of the situation,” Barrar said.