Experts skeptical about SEC Championship's economic impact on Atlanta

by: Richard Elliot Updated:

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ATLANTA - The SEC Championship game may well produce the eventual national college football champion, but some economics experts aren't sure it will generate as much revenue as games in years past.

No. 2 Alabama plays No. 3 Georgia in the title game. The winner will go on to face No. 1 Notre Dame in the BCS championship game.

Some experts believe that because there are so many UGA fans in the metro Atlanta  area, they won't buy up hotel rooms, dine in downtown restaurants or visit downtown bars as fans from faraway places like Baton Rouge, Knoxville or Gainesville might.

Stats Sports Bar in downtown's Luckie-Marietta district is anticipating big crowds and already has several large corporate private parties planned.

But Stats' GM Sean Fowler does think the fact that metro Atlanta is home to so many UGA alumni, it will affect their sales.

"Alabama travels exceptionally well," said Fowler. "Georgia, unfortunately, doesn't get the same reputation because there's such a large alumni here in Atlanta. However,  with national championship implications, I think we're going to see a large influx from the alumni locally as far away as Athens."

Fowler said they had particularly big sales two years ago when Auburn played South Carolina in the championship game.

Dr. Rajeev Dhawan, the director of GSU's Economic Forecasting Center, thinks the game will be a bigger revenue generator than some believe because the game has national championship implications.

"We're not talking about coming from within Georgia," said Dhawan. "They're going to be coming from all over the Southeast, maybe the west coast. That means these people will use Delta planes. They will use hotels. They will use the limousine services. All those things make it a bigger impact than normal."

Eldora Vandiver owns the Palace, a small sports memorabilia shop in the heart of downtown's hotel district. She's anticipating such large crowds, she's ordered a huge shipment of Alabama and Georgia memorabilia.

"This year, we plan to make thousands," said Fowler as she hung up UGA T-shirts. "They come in and the line is so long, it stretches all the way down the aisle."