Several student-athletes will not take part in fall sports at their respective universities due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Conferences such as the Big Ten and PAC-12 have delayed or canceled sports and sparked a mix of praise and criticism. Owners of local businesses across the country, however, are worried about the lack of foot traffic from student-athletes.
According to WTKR, business owners in Norfolk, Virginia are already seeing a major shift as Old Dominion University prepares to open for the 2020-21 school year. The city has a population of around 242,000, but that number increases by an estimated 25,000 when students are on campus. This year, however, ODU is using a mix of in-person and virtual learning and there are no fall sports. This decreases the number of potential visitors to local restaurants.
"We can already tell there are fewer people around, we feel a bit of a hit," Tarah Morris, owner of Perfectly Frank, told WTKR. Her restaurant is "steps away" from the Old Dominion campus and there are concerns about the lack of students around. Although Morris did tell the outlet that she remains hopeful those taking in-person classes will still stop by for food. "It's a comfortable spot to come, they know they can come here and be themselves."
Another hotspot for ODU students is Del Vecchio's, a place to pick up pizza and sub sandwiches. The restaurant is still seeing foot traffic and steady business, but there is one major change. The clientele is primarily made up of construction workers instead of students.
"Normally we get a lot of staff that comes in over the summer, and when school starts we have lots of kids and people just walking around campus, but this year it's not like that," owner Melody Kendrell told WTKR. She also explained that the restaurant staff sees increased business during football season but that will not be the case in 2020 due to the canceled sports. "During football season we are packed, we are a local favorite and we won't have that this year," Kendrell added.
Morris echoed a similar sentiment about the lack of sports and the impact on the business. She said that the business is adapting to the change and that they are taking everything "one day at a time." However, she has no plans on shutting down amid the pandemic. "We will fight through this — we aren't going anywhere," she explained.