Homecoming benefits local economy

Freshmen in the Baylor Line cheer on the Bears against Iowa State at last year’s homecoming game on Oct. 24, 2015. Homecoming brings in large crowds of alumni and families, benefiting the economy of Waco. Photo credit: Trey Honeycutt

By Kayla Farr | Reporter

Each year, families and alumni return to Baylor for homecoming; they take their kids shopping, go out to eat and enjoy all Waco has to offer. The influx of people traveling to Waco each year has a benefit on the local economy.

There has been a large number of people traveling to Waco since the opening of the Magnolia Silos last year, said Whitney Richter, business development and marketing manager of the Greater Waco Chamber.

“Waco has continued to see a lot of increase as a travel destination, especially around homecoming, not only for hospitality, but also for restaurants,” Richter said.

Richter said homecoming is an exciting time for the Waco community.

“Anytime you have that many people traveling to one place, it boosts the economy at that specific time,” Richter said. “It’s a great time to be in Waco.”

Carla Pendergraft, Waco’s director of marketing, said homecoming has lots of positive benefits to the economy.

“Not only does it fill a lot of our hotels, the alumni and parents also go out to restaurants, get in a little shopping and sometimes even have time to visit some of Waco’s attractions,” Pendergraft wrote in an email to the Lariat. “It’s a great way for students to show off their town and how they’ve connected, and it’s also fun for alumni to see how the town has changed since they were here last. I think a lot of them will be amazed to find that Magnolia Market is visited by over a million people each year, and an average Saturday will have 9,000 visitors.”

Julina Macy, director of communications of the Greater Waco Chamber, said Waco started a new collaboration called The Greater Waco Marketing Collaborative in the early spring to promote Waco externally.

“We formed this collaboration to be more efficient and streamline our mission to the community and abroad,” Macy said. “It helps promote everything from homecoming weekend to Cameron Park and Mammoth National Monument.”

Macy also said this program helps the community as well.

“When homecoming rolls around, we have the materials in place to help families navigate in Waco,” Macy said. “One of the first things we did in our collaborative was combine resources and put together one singular map of downtown Waco that we can easily update each quarter.”

Although the weekend is good for Waco’s economy, Pendergraft said she also values the tradition as a way to connect with others.

“To me, Baylor homecoming is a time for the Baylor Nation to reconnect with each other and with Waco,” Pendergraft said. “Of course, we love the parade and festivities, but there’s an important, deeper connection made during this time. It’s a connection with the past, with the present and with the future.”