Online Originals: Local economy expecting big things with return of ECU football, college season

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GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) — With August just around the corner, sports fans across the country are beginning to brew with excitement for the college football season. Pirate football fans are among those ready to be back in town for home games inside Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.

As of Wednesday, we are now 50 days away from the return of Pirate football. On Sept. 2, head coach Mike Houston and his guys will play Appalachian State inside Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte. Then, a week following the season kickoff, the Pirates will be welcome back to Greenville for their home-opener.

ECU is slated to play South Carolina on Sept. 11 for its first Saturday showdown inside Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium. Following the COVID-stricken year college football faced last season, many people are ready for football’s return, especially in Pitt County.

“We are extremely excited for Pirate football this Fall. We are excited that the stadium will be back, filled with fans and people will be coming back into Greenville visiting,” said Paul Sheehan, Director of Sports Development, Greenville-Pitt County Sports Commission.

“The local hotels will be back, hopefully at full capacity, the restaurants will be back full, and Free-Boot Fridays will be back in the swing on Fridays before home football games in the Uptown District.”

The return of football is something that city leaders say will positively impact local tourism, including hotels, restaurants and businesses.

“We are working with our hotels here, making sure that they are ready to go,” Sheehan said. “They are extremely excited that their hotels are going to be full on football weekends. We are really putting our best foot forward in marketing and showing everybody what we have to offer.” 

Sheehan told 9OYS that with the economy opening back up, many people are now more willing to travel, as compared to a year ago.

“More people are coming to Greenville and Pitt County,” Sheehan said. “Some of those people are returning. They are coming back every year for ECU football.

“Some of these people, it will be their first time in the area as they are coming for a visiting team that has not played in Greenville before. So, exposing Greenville to the broader community is what’s great for us.”

The return of Pirate football, combined with other upcoming sporting events, contributes to the nearly $5 million of economic impact expected to generate in Pitt County.

“We are seeing sports tournaments booking like crazy. Meetings and conventions are booking like crazy too,” said Sheehan. “We are just really excited to get out there and to be able to show the best of what Greenville has. We have a lot of big events in addition to Pirate football coming back this fall.”

Check out ECU football’s official 2021-2022 schedule here.

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