University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff homecoming festivities are boosting the local economy as an influx of visitors are spending money in the city this week.
Tisha Arnold, spokeswoman for UAPB, estimates more than 18,000 people visit the campus during homecoming week. They spent more than $1 million, according to the last economic impact study, Arnold said.
Bob Purvis, director of the Pine Bluff Convention Center, welcomes the visitors. They are spending money in hotels, restaurants, gas stations and retail stores.
“We know from observation that all the hotel rooms are full,” Purvis said, estimating there are 600 hotel rooms in the city. “They have to stay in outlying communities as far away as Little Rock. No one is going to build a hotel just for homecoming weekend. It is by far the largest economic impact of the year as far as people coming from out of town.”
Purvis said visitors who attend homecoming might spend money more freely than they would for other occasions, as they are celebrating their success by buying more expensive drinks and meals.
“It is almost like a vacation,” Purvis said. “They celebrate. They are relaxed and here to have a good time.”
Some visitors stay for one night, while others may stay as long as five.
“I think people want to show they are successful,” Purvis said.
Timothy Wallace, owner of Wow! Wallace Flowers and Gifts at 2201 E. Harding Ave., welcomes the visitors. A 2009 UAPB graduate, Wallace sells quite a bit of UAPB paraphernalia, custom wreaths, homecoming ribbons, buttons and corsages with black and gold ribbons.
Wallace will host a reception from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. today as sort of an open house for alumni who do not live in Pine Bluff.
“Homecoming in general is a special time to celebrate the university,” Wallace said, noting it holds a special feeling for him. “I provide the community a service and understand what they are celebrating. I understand the rich tradition. Black and gold brings forth a new meaning. You put a bit of yourself in the arrangement. You celebrate with each individual.”
Hampton Inn and Suites front desk manager Brittney Flora said her hotel at 511 Mallard Loop is completely full, and prospective guests are still seeking rooms. Flora does not refer people to other Pine Bluff hotels this week because they are also full.
“By this time, we refer people to Little Rock hotels,” Flora said. “Reservations begin as soon as the university announces the date of homecoming.”
The story was similar at Best Western Presidential Hotel & Suites at 3104 Market St. A representative said most rooms are booked six months in advance and she is referring prospective guests to Stuttgart and Searcy.
A representative of Quality Inn and Suites at 2809 Pines Mall Drive said the hotel has two available rooms out of 50.