Alabama Vs. Notre Dame: A Boon To South Florida's Economy
Perhaps you've noticed South Florida awash in a sea of green and crimson these past few days.
The visitors are fans of Alabama and Notre Dame, which meet to decide college football's 2012 national champion tonight at Sun Life Stadium.
No matter the color of the jersey, or where they are from, no one is happier to see them than local tourism officials.
For Broward County, it means an additional 25,000 to 30,000 visitors, some for the very first time.
Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention and Visitors Bureau president Nicki Grossman says we should be friendly and make them repeat customers.
“By the time Notre Dame and Alabama leave South Florida, there will be about 20 to 25 million dollars left behind in the cash registers in Broward County,” Grossman said.
Notre Dame is headquartered in Broward at the Westin Diplomat Hotel in Hollywood.
Alabama, in the meantime, is shacked up at Miami Beach’s famous Fontainebleu Hotel.
Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau president Bill Talbert says Miami-Dade hotels are swelling with guests with occupancy rates at 94 percent this week. That compares with about 75 percent when the region last hosted the championship game in 2009 between Florida and Oklahoma.
Talbert says the timing of the game on a Monday meant many spent the weekend here and the dream matchup between two of college football’s most high profile programs has brought many more fans to the region.
But Talbert adds, the big game has served to make the busy season even busier.
“(Miami) leads the country in January in hotel occupancy and rates even without the mega events. It’s a testament to how this how this destination has grown up,” Talbert said.
In the game itself, The Crimson Tide and Fighting Irish traditionally are teams South Florida sports fans have loved to hate.
Notre Dame and the University of Miami had regular battles on the football field for years, the rivalry getting the not-so-gentle nickname from Irish fans as “The Catholics versus the Convicts,” referring to UM’s rough and tumble reputation.
Floridians may have even more reason to dislike Alabama. They are key rivals of the Florida Gators in the Southeastern Conference.
And fans of the Dolphins are particularly sore at Alabama’s head coach, Nick Saban, who left Miami for Alabama in 2006 after coaching the Fins for two seasons.
Saban knows he isn’t very well regarded here and says he's trying to ignore his critics, especially in the media.
“I don’t listen to talk radio. I don’t really read the paper, relative to anything that’s written about us, good or bad,” he said.
Whether you like him or not, there’s no arguing his success.
Under Saban, Alabama has won two of the last three Bowl Championship Series title games and they are a nine-and-a-half point favorite over Notre Dame in tonight's game, which kicks off just after 8:30 in Miami Gardens.