Classic to bring economic boon


Reggie Dickens grills chicken on Sept. 26, 2015, prior to the Down East Viking Football Classic.


Staff Writer

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Rocky Mount is gearing up to host one of its largest and most profitable events of the year.

The 2017 Down East Viking Football Classic will take place between Fayetteville State University and Elizabeth City State University. The game takes place at 4 p.m. Saturday at the Rocky Mount Sports Complex. It will mark the 20th year of the Classic.

Mayor David Combs said Elizabeth City State and the city have maintained a strong partnership since the inaugural game in 1998. The only time the Classic was cancelled was because of Hurricane Floyd in 1999. 

“When we started out, no one probably expected something like this would last this long, and this has not only been big for Elizabeth City State, but also for the city as well,” Combs said. “For those people that graduated from Elizabeth City State or affilated with the university, this is like a second homecoming because for many of them they’re usually here in Rocky Mount a couple days before the game.”

Over the years, the Classic has attracted tourists to Rocky Mount. Tourism officials have said in the past that visitors over the three days of events leading up to Saturday’s football game are expected to bring in as much as $5 million to the local economy.

Barbara Green, executive director of Nash County Travel and Tourism, said the traditional event has drawn between 9,000 to 11,000 Elizabeth City State alumni and football fans. She added many of the people are dining at local restaurants, shopping in local stores and staying in local hotels.

Combs said in some cases, out-of-town people are forced to look in nearby areas such as Wilson, Roanoke Rapids and Greenville for accomodations because hotels in Rocky Mount are booked six or even nine months in advance.

“It’s an event that brings people to Rocky Mount that might not come here,” Combs said.

The tailgating parties before the game on the grounds of the Sports Complex also bring additional revenue to the city to help fund other needed areas in the Parks and Recreation department. Officials said the city has more than 100 tailgating spots and another 15 recreational vehicle parking spots available at the event each year. 

The city charges $80 per slot, but the price includes two tickets to the Classic. Tameka Kenan-Norman, public affairs manager for the city, said the city’s revenue from parking ranges from $10,000 to $12,000 that goes into the city’s scholarship fund.

“These funds are used as scholarships for area students who participate in the city’s programs, like summer camps, after-school programs and help eligible Rocky Mount children afford athletic programs,” Kenan-Norman said.

Tickets for the game are $20 in advance and $25 on game day at the gate.

Events leading up to the game include:

■ High School Quiz Bowl at 6:30 p.m. today at Booker T. Washington Theater.

■ Admissions recruitment reception at 7:30 p.m. today at the DoubleTree hotel.

■ DEVFC Golf Challenge at 10 a.m. Thursday at Belmont Lake Golf Club.

■ Inaugural Athletic Roast & Toast at 7 p.m. Friday at Benvenue Country Club.

■ Tailgating Party at 7 a.m. Saturday at Rocky Mount Sports Complex.

■ Admissions recruitmentment reception at 9 a.m. Saturday at the DoubleTree hotel.