Homecoming week at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, which kicked off Monday and culminates Saturday on Main Street with the Homecoming Parade and then at Golden Lions Stadium when the home team takes on Mississippi Valley State University, is a powerful contributor to the local economy, according to local officials and businesspeople alike.
Carla Martin, dean of the school of business and management at UAPB, said the economic impact is substantial and wide-ranging.
“I think that when alumni return to Pine Bluff in support of UAPB homecoming, the impact that they have is far-reaching,” Martin said. “The area hotels, restaurants and shopping centers get a big boost from the people who come to the homecoming events. Even the grocery stores benefit from people who are here for three, four or five days and need to pick up a few items.”
Martin said homecoming week is a benefit all the way around.
“The opportunity to showcase Pine Bluff and the influx of dollars provides a win-win for this community,” Martin said. “Consistently every hotel sells out and I think this is indicative of the level of support we have from our alumni. Some people in the past have had to travel to Little Rock for lodging because every hotel room in Pine Bluff was booked.”
Tina Leis, manager of the Ramada Plaza Hotel at the Pine Bluff Convention Center, said homecoming activities have filled her business.
“We’re super, super busy, that’s for sure,” Leis said when asked how business was Tuesday afternoon. “Our rooms are nearly booked but we have had some last-minute cancellations. There will also be last-minute reservations and walk-ins that will fill us up by the weekend.”
Leis said the UAPB Alumni Association will be hosting a dinner and dance at the Ramada that will extend into the Convention Center itself.
“They are expecting between 400 and 500 people,” Leis said. “There will be a number of vendors in the lobby Friday and Saturday selling items like purses and jewelry. The stores we have in our lobby will also be open late those days.”
Leis said the hotel’s two bars will be open for celebrants.
“We will also have a bar in the Convention Center where most of the crowds are going to be,” Leis said. “There will be a jazz singer in the Convention Center Friday night and she will be here in the hotel Saturday night.”
Bob Purvis, executive director of the Convention Center, is expecting a busy weekend.
“We will have several thousand extra people here in town and every hotel will probably be full,” Purvis said. “The restaurants will have a wonderful weekend. This is a major chunk of change for the economy. The UAPB Alumni Association will be having their dance and dinner in the Convention Center Friday and the fraternities will be having their Greek show in the Convention Center Arena later Friday evening. There will be another dance for the Alumni Association Saturday night.”
Harold Terry of Terry’s Home Cooking Express on Second Avenue hopes to see an increase in customers over homecoming weekend.
“Last year the restaurant didn’t really see much economic impact because we were new but we will probably see an increase this year,” Terry said. “We hope to see an increase in business during the parade Saturday. We will be open Saturday morning for breakfast and will shut down for the day after the parade.”