GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) — This week, East Carolina University is celebrating homecoming. The week-long festivity kicked off Monday and will continue through this weekend as the Pirate Football team gears up to host Tulane.

With all of the activities, Pitt County is expecting more people to travel to town, creating a boost in economic impact.

From July-September, Pitt County booked $7,000,000 in economic impact thanks to sporting events in the area. That includes the Little League Softball World Series and other tournaments.

“Sports has been, definitely seen an uptick, especially since the Little League Softball World Series,” said Gray Williams, Executive Director of the Greenville-Pitt County Sports Commission. “We really have put ourselves on the map as a sports destination.”

Leaders with the Pitt County Sports Commission say they are on track to keep that number climbing, thanks to the current ECU football season. Having a big conference matchup in town, combined with Homecoming at the university is creating a busy weekend for local hotels and businesses.

“We’ve been really excited to kick off East Carolina’s football season. We are excited to welcome Tulane and having homecoming, we know that it will be a great turnout,” said Williams. “Tourism and the travel industry supports about 83% of the small businesses here in Pitt County, so we are really elevating that and making sure that we are getting travelers in here and doing it in a safe way.” 

According to the Sports Commission, events like Homecoming and home football games are a key part of the recovery process for the local tourism and travel industry. It’s something that COVID-19 hit hard in the past year.

“I think it means a lot to our community to have these tourists come in and spend their money and be able to leave what we call ‘clean money’ in the hospitality industry and just support our local economy,” said Williams.

Kickoff for Saturday’s football game is set for 3:30 p.m. inside Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium. Other Homecoming events will continue through Sunday.