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Navy-Notre Dame game could bring economic boost to Annapolis but won’t replace revenue loss from coronavirus pandemic

Sean Lynch, general manager of Galway Bay Irish Restaurant and Pub in Annapolis, does not know what Labor Day weekend will bring.

Anyone who says they do is lying or a soothsayer, Lynch said. But one thing Lynch predicts is that the usually hit-or-miss weekend will likely be buzzing as the Navy takes on Notre Dame.

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The original plan for the Navy-Notre Dame game sent the two teams to Ireland. The coronavirus pandemic and travel restrictions forced the plan to change.

Instead, the game will be held Labor Day weekend at the Naval Academy, the first time the midshipmen have had home field advantage over the Fighting Irish.

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It was a costly decision for both teams, although better than canceling outright. And while it may be a financial setback for the teams involved, the city of Annapolis will likely reap some benefits.

Including Galway Bay, Lynch said. Of course, he said, much remains to be settled. If the stadium is open to attendance, the restaurant will have a plan. If no live attendance is allowed, it will have a different one.

Even if the game is only livestreamed, Galway expects a bump in service, though it might be more locals than visitors who come out to watch the game.

“We will be up for it no matter what,” he said.

One big game weekend will not make up for the months of revenue lost by pandemic mitigation efforts, which closed down restaurants to in-person service, Lynch said. Although restaurants may have outdoor seating now, with limitations, indoor service has not reopened. He said he hopes that indoor seating will be available by game day.

So while it will not replace the entirety of lost revenue, the Navy-Notre Dame game will be a “nice shot in the arm,” Lynch said.

Annapolis faces a similar situation, said Stephen Rice, the city’s economic development manager. The city faces a shortfall of at least $6 million for fiscal year 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Obviously it could be worse, but I do think $6 million is material, significant,” Rice said.

The Naval Academy provides roughly $500 million in economic activity for the Annapolis region, Rice said in an email.

Outside of finances, the game will also help give a “sense of normalcy and sense of momentum” back to the community, he said.

There could be people coming from out of state for the game, said Gary Jobson, acting chair of Visit Annapolis. The game is also usually played on NBC, which gives the city a chance to be promoted on the broadcast.

That could lead people to want to visit the city, Jobson said, which could help since the city was not able to show off during Commissioning Week, as it usually does.

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“I just hope that as we reopen, we do it safely,” Jobson said.

Others may want to come since it is the first time the game will be held at the Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium. Both teams have loyal followings.

“Since this is the first time Annapolis has played host in this rivalry, it’s possible that many Fighting Irish fans have not experienced the wonders of Annapolis,” Rice said in an email. “Exploring our city will be enjoyable to them and a boost to local business owners.”

If out-of-towners do come, that could help the hotel industry, which took a hit from the pandemic, he said. It would also benefit the restaurants and small businesses in the area.

Seating will still likely be limited due to the pandemic, although it is hard to predict what will and will not be open, Rice said. What happens in terms of the amount of people allowed in the stadium will also have an effect.

Still, there are ways for the local business community to take advantage of the game, he said.

“The best way for small businesses to take advantage of this opportunity is to serve as great hosts so that Notre Dame fans share with their family and friends why Annapolis is such a great city,” Rice said in his email. “Hopefully, even with a loss, those fans will decide to come back to Annapolis on a regular basis.”

However the game-day situation plays out will likely give the city some sort of financial boost. That is not the question Jobson has about the game.

“The big question is how’s our football team going to do?”

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