LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — UK sports are ingrained in the hearts and minds of True Blue fans, but the impact of UK football goes well beyond Kroger Field.
The students are slowly moving back into dorms. These are the first signs of campus life since mid-March. Molly, Ellie and Jackie Tierney are triplets and UK sophomores.
"It got a little lonely back in NKY, but I'm glad to be able to do things again," said Jackie.
They're eager for less Zoom calls, and to show freshman Amelia Stricker around Lexington.
"I'm glad I'm on campus. I'm so happy we're not all online. I have a few classes in person and I can't wait meet all my classmates and professors," said Stricker.
The bar for "normal" is lower in a pandemic. Dorms, lecture halls, and campus-adjacent restaurants and bars all look different. But many are still open. However, there's now sudden concern that the pandemic may lead to the delay of some timeless college experiences such as going to a fall football game.
"I hope the season isn't delayed," said Stricker.
The expenses in UK's football budget have gone up from about $22.6 million last school year to about $23.2 million this season. Football is also a big money-maker for the university. But hundreds of other businesses in and around Lexington benefit from UK sports. We reached out to VisitLex, the city's tourism office, and asked about the impact events such as a football game have on the city.
President Mary Quinn Ramer released a statement in response:
"Fall is typically a busy travel season in Lexington with fans visiting the city to attend University of Kentucky sporting events, Keeneland and a variety of other seasonal activities. While we don't have specific economic impact numbers for University of Kentucky home football weekends, we know fans from SEC teams are avid travelers and provide a healthy financial injection to college towns across the Southeast. Spending from visitors includes hotel room revenue, as well as food and beverage, transportation and retail expenditures. The loss of hospitality revenue due to cancelled events is significant. We are confident the University of Kentucky, as well as leadership for the SEC, will make a decision that is supports the health and safety of the student athletes, fans and residents of the towns that house SEC universities."
Now, the question remains: will the next UK football game be next month, or 2021?