Luke Combs’ record-breaking gig was the “silver bullet” for the Grand Forks businesses; another big weekend is coming


“It was 100% occupation for everyone,” said Joe Cozart, the former general manager of the Grand Forks Ramada Inn, who now runs the consulting firm OpXGroup. “It’s a silver bullet. There aren’t enough of them, but there are more than we’ve ever had since Anna Rosburg ran things (at the Alerus Center). This is the secret of concerts in the city. It creates occupation for us.

The concert, a stop on Combs’ What You See Is What You Get tour, sold around 22,000 tickets, setting an attendance record for the venue and sparking business across town. Although classic rock band Foreigner performed at the Alerus Center earlier this month to a modest crowd, the Luke Combs concert was the first large-circulation event at the Alerus Center since the start of the COVID-pandemic. 19.

The high attendance at the concert meant more people in Grand Forks. In the hours leading up to the concert, hotel parking lots seemed full. Ditto for restaurants.

And on Saturday, the day after Combs’ gig, it was the Potato Bowl, which saw UND beat Drake 38-0 in front of a large crowd after a downtown parade earlier in the morning.

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Another big weekend is coming. Country music star Eric Church will perform at the Alerus Center on October 1, followed by the highly anticipated football game between UND and North Dakota State on October 2. Also on October 2, UND opens the hockey season with an exhibition game against Bemidji State at Ralph Engelstad Arena.

Cozart said he estimates there will be two or three additional 100% occupancy weekends for local hotels before the end of the year, but there are many more. Famous concerts help.

“We had dozens, sometimes dozens,” Cozart said. “Prior to 2015, the Ramada was 90% occupied all year round. With the oil boom drying up, the fluctuating Canadian dollar and the competition that has created so many hotels, it has simply cut everyone’s income. We were just oversized.

Barry Wilfahrt, president and CEO of Grand Forks / East Grand Forks Chamber, said the hospitality industry particularly benefits from having large crowds in town. And, he said, when people come to Grand Forks for an event, they usually hang out at local businesses before they leave.

“From a hospitality standpoint, it’s huge,” Wilfahrt said. “We did this regional market capture analysis a few years ago, and when you have a big concert or a big event like this in town, the restaurants and hotels are two and a half to three and a half times. busier than they are. in a normal day. Obviously, this has a huge impact on our local economy. Also, if you look at the city center with the different bars, restaurants and shops, especially the shops, they all explode whenever they have these big events in town.

Wilfahrt said the most important thing that will help the local business community is something over which they have no control.

“I would say the only piece we’re really planning is the reopening of the Canadian border,” Wilfahrt said. “When that happens, it will add a lot to that as well. This is the one piece that we hope for and that we are still waiting for. “

Julie Rygg, executive director of Visit Greater Grand Forks, said September hotel numbers won’t arrive until later, but she already knows that consumer-oriented industries in Grand Forks have seen a surge in new customers on the Last weekend.

“We know the hotels were pretty busy,” Rygg said. “The restaurants were busy, the bars were busy, and then, of course, it was Potato Bowl week and other events were happening. It was a great weekend economically for our community.

A recruitment shortage has hit Grand Forks and the rest of the United States since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, but Rygg said local businesses are keeping pace, even as big-ticket artists are coming to town and attracting an influx of visitors.

“I know everyone is trying,” Rygg said. “Sadly, we’re struggling with a labor shortage not only here but across the United States right now, so that’s something we have to deal with. But restaurants, hotels and (retailers) in our community pay close attention to our event calendars. They know this and they are also trying to increase their staff for these busier weekends, but of course the hard truth is that we are currently facing a shortage of manpower.


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