November 24, 2020

With few students and no fall sports, business dries up around ODU

Ynot Italian founder Tony DiSilvestro is unequivocal about how the loss of an Old Dominion University football season and a truncated fall semester have affected his business.

“It’s been really tough,” DiSilvestro said.

Businesses near the campus of ODU have been through mandated closures and restrictions on their capacity, but the fall semester has brought with it more trouble: no sporting events and a decreased student presence on campus.

Ynot is the ticket sponsor for both ODU athletics and campus events and also sells its pizza at football games and during events in the Chartway Arena. DiSilvestro said the lack of events has taken a huge chunk out of his company’s business.

Even his physical location in Ghent has been suffering due to a late start and a lack of ODU students. University leaders decided to start the fall semester two weeks later than expected and operate with a mix of in-person, online and hybrid classes.

“That area is so dependent upon that university,” DiSilvestro said.

Around 58% of students are taking classes fully online this year, including 40% of all freshman, according to ODU.

In August, the school announced the postponement of all fall sports. A month later, athletic director Wood Selig said Monarch football would not play a season this spring either, as was originally floated as an idea.

Several organizations have tried to estimate the total economic impact lost from the absence of ODU football games.

While businesses close to ODU are certainly losing out because of the cancellations, the net economic impact on the region could actually be close to zero, said ODU economist Bob McNab in an email. That’s because he thinks residents will be using their ticket and food money elsewhere, like a home improvement store or other local entertainment.

“Obviously, hotels and restaurants that had patrons from games are facing lost revenues,” he added.

McNab believes the biggest economic losses would come from home games where the away team’s fans could easily travel to Norfolk, citing Wake Forest University and the University of Virginia as examples. If the Monarchs-Cavaliers game sold out, 10,000 U.Va. fans could travel to Norfolk and spend money on tickets, food and hotels. If fans spent an average of $500 each, the direct injection of $5 million would translate to an economic impact of $8 million to $10 million.

Soon after the announcement, Selig estimated the department itself could lose between $2 million to $3 million from the lack of a football season.

At Dirty Buffalo’s Colley Avenue location, sales have actually been near or better than previous years, said spokesman Ryan Lynn. However, he said the location is certainly missing out from gameday revenue.

“Speaking from experience, Saturdays at our Colley Avenue location during home ODU football games are ‘organized chaos’ and I can’t help but feel we’re missing out on those awesome days,” he said.

For DiSilvestro, Ynot as a whole has been well-equipped to take on the pandemic, since the Italian restaurant was already focused on take-out and delivery options. He said the business would preserve and hopefully get back to normal operations.

“It’s definitely been a very difficult time in restaurant industry,” he said.

Trevor Metcalfe, 757-222-5345, [email protected]

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