Return to McGuirk: Football’s return creates anticipated spike in local business

By Jaclyn Bryson

(Cade Belisle/Daily Collegian)
(Cade Belisle/Daily Collegian)

With the return of the Massachusetts football team Saturday, local restaurants and eateries both on and off campus are not only expecting a burst in morale, but a burst in business as well.

“A lot of the businesses in the community are eagerly awaiting the return of UMass football,” said Nancy Buffone, executive director of external relations and university events. “It brings a lot of people to the area. The restaurants and retail see a big increase when we have football fans coming to campus.”

On Sept. 27, students and locals will gather at the newly renovated McGuirk Stadium to cheer on UMass as it finally returns home to face Bowling Green for Homecoming. According to Garett DiStefano, director of Residential Dining, dining halls across campus will be ready and waiting to serve those hungry fans.

“We’re in a harvest season right now,” he said. “This is a great chance for everyone to come back and take a look at some of the local fare that we are featuring in the dining commons. It’s a great chance for people to come back and take a look at the best that the Pioneer Valley has to offer.”

DiStefano also added that since the team played its last three seasons at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, he is looking forward to not only celebrating the team’s return to campus, but to welcoming alumni back home as well.

“We are fully geared up for alumni to come back,” he said, adding that he often hears that the one thing UMass graduates say they miss most is the local food. For DiStefano, the return of the Minutemen is a chance for everyone to experience that once again.

“We’re anticipating that they are going to come back and they are going to really enjoy themselves, have a good time and eat some great food in the dining commons as well as our retail locations,” he said.

In addition to the new renovations of McGuirk, new changes have been made for concessions offered at the game as well.

“We haven’t had anything there (at the stadium) in a while, so it’s been fun to rethink it a little bit,” said Manager of Campus Center Food Services Van Sullivan of his plans to maximize concession sales and variety at the game.

According to Sullivan, the focus will now be on grilled, hot food featured at three of the rotundas of the stadium. The two Baby Berk food trucks, he added, will serve food outside the stadium. At the promenade off the football performance center overlooking the end zone, more high-quality and local selections will be offered.

But one of the biggest effects Sullivan said that the return to McGuirk had on UMass business and concessions is that it sparked motivation to increase the taste, quality and variety of food options made available to local fans.

“We’ve taken an opportunity to really upgrade some of the food quality,” he said. “We’re going to be offering local products – not so much a focus on candy and more traditional snacks, but a bigger focus on better stadium food.”

Off-campus eateries have also been gearing up for the return to McGuirk. At the Hangar Pub and Grill, manager Mike Stone is expecting heavy crowds and is looking forward to serving them.

“We are expecting a spike in sales,” Stone said. “There’s going to be a huge influx of people that have been missing over the past few years … I expect Amherst to be chock-full.”

“We don’t need to do anything special that day,” added Yvette Rowan, manager of Rafters. “It’s just going to be a nonstop kind of day for business.”

And while there may be some obstacles to maneuver with the sudden increase of crowds, local businesses are looking forward to serving large numbers of fans again.

“Just like any big event traffic can be an issue, parking can be an issue,” Stone added. “But (having football) back here in Amherst trumps all of those issues.”

“Right now we are just focusing on having enough staff and getting organized to be able to accommodate the number of people we are expecting,” said John Korpita, owner of the Amherst Brewing Company.

Korpita also commented that over the past years, events that offer free food on campus, like the clambake on Labor Day, took away from business during peak serving times. But with a special Minutemen-themed beer on tap just for sports seasons, Korpita added that he’s looking forward to the return of some of his customers.

“This is a plus, to be able to have the football game coming back and all the people coming into the area … I’m sure a lot of them will be going out to the area restaurants like us,” he said. “That’s what we are counting on.”
Yet despite the inevitable boom in business that is sure to come from serving large crowds on Saturday, both off-campus and on-campus businesses are simply forward to having Minuteman football back home.

“We’re really creating a community event. We hope that people will go grab lunch in town, come down for some tailgating and enjoy the football game, “ Buffone said. “(UMass football) is giving people more opportunities to come and enjoy both Amherst and the campus.”

Jaclyn Bryson can be reached at [email protected]