The first annual AT&T Nation's Football Classic fell short of economic expectations, The Washington Examiner has learned, but organizers say they are confident the event has a bright future.
The event at RFK Stadium featuring historically black colleges and universities drew 18,000 attendees and generated nearly $3.5 million in spending over the Sept. 10 weekend last year, according to Events DC. At least 1,100 hotel room nights were also sold.
When the game, in which Howard University defeated Morehouse College, 30-27, was announced last year. Events DC executives had predicted the weekend would generate $6 million in local spending.
|By the numbers|
|College game||Direct spending||Attendance||Estimated hotel room nights|
|2011 Nation's Football Classic||$3.5m||18,409||1,100|
|Howard vs. Morehouse|
|2010 Military Bowl*||$13.3m||38,794||3,000|
|Maryland vs. East Carolina||($17.7m gross impact)|
|2009 EagleBank Bowl||$5.8m||23,072||1,790|
|UCLA vs. Temple||($7.7m gross impact)|
"This was a first-time event, and the most you can really do is guess," Erik Moses, Events DC senior vice president and managing director, told The Examiner on Tuesday. "We ended up closer to $3.5 [million] that's trackable and we feel comfortable with that."
The District's other college football game at RFK, the Military Bowl, had a similar start in 2008. No numbers are available for the inaugural year, but direct spending more than doubled from $5.8 million in 2009 to $13.3 million in 2010, The Examiner first reported.
The 2010 game's numbers were boosted by the fact that East Carolina University fans travel well and University of Maryland players stayed in the District all week, officials said at the time.
But unlike the bowl game, which is all about football, the Classic is more of a cultural event.
"[For example] in the black college world, the marching band, they're kind of the stars," Moses said. "That dynamic is one that you can't fully appreciate until you're living it."
He added that Howard and Morehouse work as a draw because many Howard alumni live out of town and will travel for the Classic. Also, D.C. is second only to Atlanta -- where Morehouse is located -- in number of Morehouse alumni.
This year's game was moved up to Labor Day weekend in an effort to keep business in the District on a weekend where locals typically desert the city for one last round at the beach. Moses said he hopes to include a federal jobs fair among the weekend's kickoff events.
Tickets went on sale Tuesday and are discounted to $15 through June 30.