Tourism industry hoping for economic boost as fans pack Memphis for Southern Heritage Classic

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — We’re less than 24 hours away from the Southern Heritage Classic, but for some the fun has already begun.

Sports fans started pouring into the city Thursday, and hundreds of them camped outside the Liberty Bowl Friday. Some say they came as early as Thursday afternoon, and they plan to stay here until Saturday’s game is over.

Local health officials would like them to do so safely. Event organizers are recommending masks, but not requiring them.

“We encourage everybody to wear their masks except when they’re eating or drinking indoors or outdoors,” said Fred Jones with the Southern Heritage Classic.

Local businesses are gearing up for a lot of eating and drinking. Thursday night’s Heritage Classic concert at the Orpheum sent some extra foot traffic to Beale Street. Cooper Young restaurants, just blocks from the Liberty Bowl, could be next in line as game day approaches. 

“The income and economic impact from this event can exceed $6 million, sometimes north of $8 or $9 million, so it depends how many people will be in town actually for the game,” said Kevin Kane with Memphis Tourism.

Forty-eight thousand people attended 2019’s game. Last year’s game was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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