SHREVEPORT, La. (KSLA) — The cancellation of this year’s Independence Bowl will cost the Shreveport-Bossier City area millions of dollars. That includes revenue lost by hotels, restaurants and other businesses that get a boost from tens of thousands of visitors.
The decision announced Sunday is the first cancellation of the game in 45 years. Many who’ve gone to the game in the past were visiting the city for the first time.
So why the cancellation?
After so many teams opted out of post-season play because of the COVID-19 pandemic, I-Bowl officials said they could find no suitable replacement to take on the Army Black Knights.
The cancellation means retailers in places like Louisiana Boardwalk will take a hit. Each year, the shopping center on the Bossier City riverfront traditionally hosts a pep rally and parade before the game.
“The I-Bowl was always a great event for us here at Louisiana Boardwalk. And it will be again in the future,” said Bill McFadden, Louisiana Boardwalk’s general manager. “But this year, unfortunately, we won’t get to enjoy all the great visitors to the area that we normally would have.”
And that means a loss of revenue, no consistent economic bump after Christmas spurred by the Independence Bowl.
“The big picture is that it’s going to get better,” McFadden said. “This year has been such a challenge.
“And as we look ahead to ’21 with the vaccine now on the ground and beginning to hit the population, we have to assume that by this time next year, it will just be an unpleasant memory.”
Economic leaders agree, saying the Independence Bowl will see brighter days ahead.
“The initial reaction is sadness. It’s been part of our fabric since 1976,” said Rocky Rockett, longtime executive director of the Greater Bossier Economic Development Foundation.
“If there is any silver lining to all of this cancellation of the I-Bowl, there is one thing to consider. The I-Bowl was only going to be able to be one-fourth of the way filled. So it was going to be economically slower than years past anyway.”
The cancellation of the bowl game, while not a huge surprise, is still no doubt a big hit for the local economy, said Kelly Wells, executive director of the Shreveport-Bossier Sports Commission.
“It would have been several million dollars to end the year with. So I know that there are a lot of hotels and restaurants and attractions. Retailers were super excited about having it. And we look forward to next year.”