CHARLOTTE, N.C. — After a bustling spring in the Charlotte tourism business, the city could be headed for a busy summer.
In April, seven evenings set records for hotel stays, with those seven nights now among Mecklenburg County’s top 15 nights for booked hotel rooms.
The Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority said it could be an indicator of a strong summer season on the way.
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Charlotte tourism looks to rebound this summer after COVID-19 pandemic
NASCAR Hall of Fame executive says potential Army-Navy football game would be good for the city
There has not been an announcement of future Army-Navy football sites, with Charlotte reportedly in the running
As the City of Charlotte and surrounding areas continue to grow, more events and experiences are considering the Queen City.
For example, back in April officials from the Army and Naval academies visited Charlotte to tour the city as a potential host site of their annual football game.
The Army-Navy game has national prestige, often features a visit from the United States president and is televised across the country. In recent years, the game has also been featured on ESPN’s popular "College GameDay" show, which highlights a marquee college football matchup of the weekend.
At the time, the Charlotte Sports Foundation confirmed the academy officials were in town. Since then, no announcement has been made about future Army-Navy games, or if Charlotte would host one of the matchups.
Army and Navy will play in Philadelphia this year on Saturday, Dec. 10.
Charlotte is no stranger to big-time college football. In 2021, the Duke’s Mayo Classic featured a game between Clemson and Georgia. The weekend set a record for hotel rooms booked in Mecklenburg County. Visiting fans and spectators booked 28,623 hotel rooms the night of the game, according to the foundation. There also was $26.2 million in direct visitor spending with Mecklenburg County sales and hospitality taxes bringing in $1.47 million, according to the same statistics.
The impact of these sporting events can be widespread in the region, bringing in fans and visitors to local restaurants, bars and other attractions.
At the NASCAR Hall of Fame, football can mean big business.
“We’ve been privileged to host over 300 events most years and be that go-to location. And, sports events are no different. Whether it’s the football games, ACC Championship, Duke’s Mayo Bowl, what we had with Clemson and Georgia,” said the hall’s executive director Winston Kelley.
Kelley is in his 16th year with the hall, starting before it was even open back in 2006.
“I really enjoy the people that are a part of NASCAR, and NASCAR fans are second to none. So, I particularly enjoy the fact that I get to work with NASCAR fans and the NASCAR industry on a seven days a week basis,” Kelley said while walking the exhibits.
He wants others to enjoy it too, which is why the hall makes sure to welcome football fans and teams when they come to town, like it did with Georgia and Clemson.
“There definitely was a spike, and you could see a lot of orange in the building, you could see a lot of the burgundy and red from Georgia, in the building,” Kelley said.
Kelley and his team decked out two NASCAR vehicle displays in Georgia and Clemson colors and logos, which were then featured at the hall and on ESPN’s "College GameDay."
Now, another marquee event could be on the way with Charlotte in the running to host a future Army-Navy football matchup.
“I think there is a special tie-in with the Army-Navy game and NASCAR, because NASCAR has been, more than any other sport that I know of, a huge supporter of the military,” Kelley said.
Kelley emphasized he was speaking hypothetically on the game coming to Charlotte, as no decision has been announced.
“Around the Coke 600, it’s about celebrating and promoting the military. So, I think that’s going to even heighten the enthusiasm that the NASCAR fan, and what we hope we can bring to the table, along with our partners at the Charlotte motor speedway, that there is a unique tie and respect from the NASCAR industry and the military,” Kelley added.
The matchup would be sure to bring in thousands of visitors, something Kelley said the hall sees for other big events around town.
In fact, the average NASCAR Hall of Fame visitor travels 564 miles, with roughly 60% of those visitors staying overnight for an average of three days, spending $800 in Charlotte, according to Kelley.
So, he and the city will wait to see if Army and Navy waive a green flag over Charlotte.