DDD hopes Bayou Classic visitors take advantage of downtown improvements

DDD hopes Bayou Classic visitors take advantage of downtown improvements

You could say Thanksgiving week is synonymous with a huge football rivalry in New Orleans - the Bayou Classic - and downtown officials hope visitors will like what they see in terms of enhancements.

Grambling State University and Southern University will face off for the 41st annual game.

"It's time to get it on and may the best team win," said Mayor Mitch Landrieu during a kickoff press conference inside the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

On Bourbon Street, many businesses are preparing for what they expect to be a winning weekend.

"Definitely this weekend will be one of the busier weekends of this part of the season, yes," said Michael Sawyer, who works at Jester Daiquiri on Bourbon Street.

He said they are stocking up for expected big crowds.

"Getting daiquiri mix in, a lot more alcohol, we usually stock up. We usually get a fair amount of every week, but it should be at least double this week," he said.

Tourism officials said the Bayou Classic and its related weekend events attract about 200,000 visitors and have an economic impact of $50 million during the holiday weekend. It also fosters long lasting relationships that keep tens of thousands returning to the city Thanksgiving week.

"It creates a connection between all the alums, all the fans and downtown, and that's not something that goes away at the end of the game, and that's a relationship that builds over time. And for us, that means economic development downtown," said Kurt Weigle, CEO of the Downtown Development District.

And while a lot of fans will no doubt have their minds on what will be at stake during the game, Downtown Development District officials hope they get out and experience what is new and enhanced in the area.

"The Outlet Collection at Riverwalk is some of the new shopping, we've got new shopping on Canal Street, all through downtown, and that's one of our messages to the fans and to the alums is that downtown continues to change over time and it gets better over time," Weigle said.

Twelve months of bragging rights for the winning football team and fans is always at stake. This year, there is also something more.

"Two great teams in really an unprecedented year, it's going to be a tie-breaker year, obviously, 20 to 20 the series overall I think is 31 to 30, some big things are going to happen, and the winner of this game is going to go to the SWAC Championship," said Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne.

The winning coach this Saturday will get to hoist up the Bayou Classic trophy, but after this year's game the trophy will be retired to the Smithsonian's new African-American Museum in Washington. A new trophy will be unveiled just prior to the 2015 Bayou Classic.

There will be a Bayou Classic parade through downtown New Orleans on Thanksgiving.

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