‘Business as usual’ for centennial Homecoming

Most local hotels have already been completely booked.
With the centennial anniversary of Homecoming approaching, the university is preparing for parking, crowd control and hotels. Several locations on campus are experiencing construction, which will hinder the flow of traffic this fall.

Homecoming at any American university is a huge deal, and even more so for MU, which lays claim to inventing the tradition.

The centennial of the event, however, is a whole different story. The sudden influx of alumni and other guests creates a special case for the event’s organizers.

Columbia's already experiencing a dearth of hotel rooms near the date of this year’s Homecoming, Oct. 15. A brief online survey of five national hotel chains in town — Hampton Inn, Holiday Inn, Ramada, Motel 6 and Residence Inn — found zero rooms available from Oct. 14 to Oct. 16.

“Homecoming last year was a good test run for us because it was also an ESPN GameDay,” said Caroline Bien, the coordinator of student programs for the Mizzou Alumni Association, referring to ESPN’s traveling college football show which draws a crowd at every campus it visits.

Bien said last year’s event brought together a myriad of different campus groups and organizations, among them being the City of Columbia athletics office, the Alumni Association and the chancellor’s office.

The MU Public Relations Council has worked with the Alumni Association to establish communications with different organizations around campus about Homecoming festivities and other campus events.

As for the football game, a very large crowd will undoubtedly attend. The last two Homecoming games — in 2009 versus Texas and 2010 versus Oklahoma — drew the two largest crowds to Faurot Field in the history of its current capacity.

Students expressed general ambivalence about the centennial Homecoming.

"I wouldn't say that I'm concerned with all the people coming to campus and Columbia," freshman Aaron Lou said. "I'm fairly comfortable."

The Alumni Association has planned ahead for the anticipated crowd, Bien said.

“We worked with athletics on having a special block of tickets for the Alumni Association to pre-purchase to guarantee that they would have tickets to the game before those tickets went on sale to the general public,” she said. "That group of tickets sold out the day they went on sale.”

Tickets are also available for the families of the Homecoming royalty court reserved by the Alumni Association for the families to purchase in the event of a sellout. The top 30 royalty candidates were announced last week. There will not be any celebrity MU alumni in attendance for the parade or game, but Bien expressed excitement about having members of past steering committees in attendance.

The family of Chester Brewer, the former MU athletic director who is credited with the invention of Homecoming, will also be in attendance and will ride in the parade. Brewer, often referred to as the “Father of Homecoming” is this year’s Grand Marshal. Although popular businesses of the city such as Shakespeare’s and Harpo’s will undoubtedly experience a greater amount of business than normal on Homecoming weekend, there is no collaboration between local businesses and MU.

“Homecoming weekend is pretty similar to other game weekends, and it’s something that they prepare for as far as staffing and supplies,” Bien said. “They know what’s coming.”

The Alumni Association has met with the city Special Events Committee every month since July to touch base on what is happening for Homecoming. Still, Bien said this year’s crowds are not anticipated to be larger than other Homecoming years.

“We work with the city of Columbia to make sure that the parade route is staffed appropriately for crowds, and as far as the football game goes, it’s the typical (personnel) and event staff that athletics utilizes,” she said.

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