AUBURN, Ala. (WIAT) — The future of the college football season is in question right now, with some media outlets across the nation reporting that conferences are considering canceling their seasons for the fall.
If that happens, it could present major challenges for small college towns in Alabama, like Auburn.
“It’s a real conundrum as we look to move our city forward,” Mayor Ron Anders said.
Auburn football games are the city’s biggest tourist industry, Anders said. He said he’s worried about how small businesses will survive if football doesn’t happen this fall.
“They will be threatened if football does not occur,” he said. “They do not have the capital and the staying power that a large, corporate business does to make it through dire times.”
Anders said those businesses have already struggled this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Losing football would hurt them even more. The city, which offered no-interest loans to help businesses survive the pandemic, would again have to find a way to support them.
“It’ll be up to us to get around the table and throw all the mud on the wall and see if there’s an idea that sticks that can be productive and supportive of our local businesses,” he said.
Anders said that small business struggles can lead to citywide struggles. When business decreases, so does the sales tax revenue they provide to Auburn.
“Sales taxes are our primary source of revenue to pay our police and to invest in our school system and to build parks and rec facilities and pave our roads,” Anders said. “And so we will have to make real hard decisions about what we can do and what we can’t do if there is no football season.”
Students are in the process of moving back to campus. Anders said their presence helps the city’s economy, but he’s still hoping for at least five home football games this fall.
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