U.S. college towns on edge with football season up in the air

In previous years, when Penn State’s powerhouse football team took the field, Champs Sports Grill was packed. Dante Lucchesi’s father opened the 400 seat restaurant back in 1986. “Then, after the game, we’ll usually kind of turn the crowd and then everyone from stadium then comes down and then we’re you know, we’re going strong until 2am… so much of our business hinges on these home football games.” But now, like thousands of local business owners in university towns across the country, Lucchesi could face the unthinkable: a season of college football wiped off the calendar. Seven hundred miles south in Athens, Georgia, businesses are awaiting word from the University of Georgia. David Bradley is the head of the local Chamber of Commerce. “There was some speculation last year when we played Notre Dame, Notre Dame came here and Sanford Stadium will hold 98,000 people. The police department suggested that the population of Athens over the course of that three-day period was more like 300,000. So basically, we doubled, a little bit more than doubled in size. So just imagine what that does for the local economy, what that does to keep cash registers ringing.” College programs are now weighing options for salvaging a season which typically kicks off in September. Possibilities include requiring fans to space out in stadiums, holding games without spectators or even postponing the season until the spring. Asked about the upcoming season, Penn State Athletics said it would continue “planning for various scenarios.” Georgia’s athletics director declined to comment.

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