The recent announcement of universities closing and transitioning from face-to-face learning to online classes due to the coronavirus has extended its concern to businesses, students and athletes.
Throughout Bloomington-Normal, small and large businesses will be suffering from the lack of students across the area while also losing out on exposure and revenue from the Illinois High School Association competitions that happen throughout the spring.
Many of these businesses rely on ISU students for both customers and employees as the students play one of the largest roles within the McLean County economy. According to a 2016 study, spending done by the ISU community alone adds more than $550 million to the county’s economy and returns more than $18 million in tax revenues to the area.
IHSA announced its cancellation for the remaining winter state competitions on March 12. A large portion of the various competitions have been utilizing spaces within the Bloomington-Normal area since the relationship between the two parties began.
IHSA had started off that day with restrictions on attendance at all remaining games before canceling the remainder of the postseason for boys’ basketball, Scholastic Bowl, Drama & Group Interpretation, Music Organization and Debate and Journalism completely that evening.
“While we had support from the Illinois Department of Public Health and the Peoria City/County Health Department to continue our events with limited spectators, it has become untenable to continue the events among our member schools,” IHSA Executive Director Craig Anderson said in a statement on IHSA’s website.
“Multiple schools who are participating or hosting these sports and activities have been forced to withdraw from those roles, clarifying the need for the IHSA to take definitive action.”
The future for spring sport tournaments may remain unclear for IHSA and its Board, but the revenue that many of these tournaments bring to the Bloomington-Normal area and its economy goes above and beyond.
The cancellation for the tournaments only means a larger downfall for the future of McLean County in the coming weeks and months. These sports and activities can individually bring up to at least $1 million dollars alone for their tournament weekends, leaving an opportunity for these businesses to double dip with tourists and college students.
The businesses that rely on these two groups for revenue and exposure, such as Pub II and The Garlic Press, will have to deal with this issue and the addition of Gov. JB Pritzker’s shutdown for in-person diners and drinkers until March 30 on their hands.
After Pritzker’s daily press conference on Sunday, the additional limitation of in-store service for bars and restaurants will leave a future that is unknown within the coming weeks.
For now, public health is the number one priority.
With that, the crowds that both IHSA tournaments and ISU faculty and students bring to these businesses will only cause a large decline in the coming weeks.