Oxford businesses, restaurants preparing for even bigger turnout as College GameDay returns to Ole Miss

OXFORD, Miss. (WCBI) – College GameDay has arrived in Oxford, with ESPN crews out in force Thursday morning at The Grove, getting everything ready for Saturday’s kickoff between Ole Miss and Texas A&M.

And when College GameDay comes to town, they bring a whole lot with them. And it’s not just the truckloads of equipment and set pieces.

“It trains a national spotlight on what (the city) is doing,” says Jon Maynard, President and CEO of Oxford’s Economic Development Foundation and Chamber of Commerce. “They don’t just focus on the athletics. They focus on the overall appeal of the community. And they’ve been very kind to Oxford in the past.”

Like many college towns, Oxford relies heavily on tourism and a growing student body to stimulate the local economy.

“Athletics drives student enrollment, student enrollment drives our economy,” Maynard says.

And with Ole Miss Football on the rise, that spotlight couldn’t come at a better time.

“Even if they’re not going to the game, they’ll come to The Grove,” Maynard says. “But more specifically, they’ll come to Oxford and hang out here.”

Saturday morning, The Grove will be packed long before the College GameDay cameras start rolling. And it won’t be easy finding a seat at local restaurants, either.

Southern Coop Owner Jennifer Hudson says she started noticing the surge of activity Wednesday.

“(We were) beyond capacity. We had a wait time to get in the door last night,” she says. “Probably took a good 10-15 minutes to get in and that’s very unusual for a Wednesday night.”

And she says the weekend catering orders are pouring in.

“We have several thousand wings for catering,” Hudson says.

Visit Oxford Director Kinney Ferris says they are actually better equipped to accommodate the GameDay crowd than they were in 2014, with eight to 10 more restaurants and around 200 more hotel rooms.

“Any kind of economic impacts that they’re making here, we know is going to be greater than it was in 2014, just for sheer capacity reasons,” she says.

With new roads, roundabouts, shuttle service and more parking options, the city hopes their upgrades can make ESPN’s favorite college town even better.

“We’re happy that people can come and enjoy that,” Ferris says. “And of course to get the national spotlight on our city and our state is pretty special for us, so we’re excited to show it off.”

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