Rock Could Be A Bowl Gem

One issue facing potential bowl sites is the fan perception of the host city. Little Rock is not a high profile city nationally so they will be fighting to establish the city as a credible host.

AState fans were leery of Mobile in 2011 because they knew little of Mobile other than “where the tunnel is” from trips to the gulf coast.

Fans arrived in force to support the team and discovered that Mobile had a great deal to offer and so for four straight years Arkansas State fans have been streaming down to Mobile Howlabama for a few days of fun that also includes a football game.

As a life-long Arkansan when Little Rock first came up as a potential bowl destination my initial thought was “Ok, but what are the fans going to do?”

I’ve been at or around bowl activities in New Orleans, Orlando, Memphis, Shreveport, Phoenix, Miami, and Mobile. Hands down, for a big event you cannot top New Orleans. Stadium, hotels, and all the activities are all located within walking distance of each other. Mobile comes the closest to replicating the New Orleans environment for a smaller event. Hotels and activities are all located in one area and fans are comfortable roaming around. Memphis does this fairly well also but hotel space can be very hard to find around Beale for a popular Liberty Bowl vs. the GoDaddy and available rooms. Miami, Orlando and Phoenix are more disconnected because there are several areas that fans want to gather in so they tend to be more dispersed.

Little Rock has the potential to be much like the situation in Mobile that AState fans are familiar with except with even more potential activities. At some point during a trip to the GoDaddy Bowl, an AState fan is likely to make the pilgrimage to Wintzell’s Oyster House in downtown Mobile. For comparison I checked to see how far the walk from the team hotel in Mobile is to Wintzell’s. It is 0.8 miles if you walk, one mile if you drive.

I pulled up a map of the Rivermarket area and selected a hotel that probably won’t be a team hotel but is around the middle of the area’s hotels. I came up with the Hampton Inn.

Using walking distances these are the attractions within 0.8 miles of the Hampton Inn in the Rivermarket. About half of them have free admission.

Museum of Discovery 0.2 miles
Historic Arkansas Museum 0.2 miles (legend says Davy Crockett stayed here on the way to Texas)
Nature Center 0.3 miles.
Clinton Library 0.3 miles
Old Statehouse Museum 0.6 miles
MacArthur of Museum of Arkansas Military History (Douglas MacArthur was born there) 0.6 miles
Heifer Village 0.7 miles (Headquarters of Heifer International)
Arkansas Arts Center 0.7 miles.
Rock Town Distillery 0.7 miles.
Inland Maritime Museum (submarine) 1.1 miles (but 0.7 walking).

A Google search turns up around 50 restaurants within less than a mile and at least 20 places that hit as “bar” on that search (most are restaurants that have a bar).

Within a one mile radius of a Rivermarket area hotel fans will have a large number of attractions to visit and a wide range of restaurant choices, none of which include the seen everywhere chains like Chili’s, Applebees, or Red Lobster. Though a trek of just over a half mile will get you to Broadway and a selection of drive-through window fast food places (which were not included in my restaurant count) if the kids are just dying to see if the McDonalds is as good as the one at home.

The Riverfest Amphitheater (0.3 mile walk from the Hampton Inn) provides a logical point for a pre-game pep rally and battle of the bands venue.

The trolley system does not extend out to the stadium but it does make it easier to travel to the Argenta District of North Little Rock, which offers more bars, more restaurants and more shops as well as the submarine tour. The trolleys also make the North Little Rock RV Park next to the submarine a viable location for those who want to travel by RV but still be close to the bowl events.

In short a fan can arrive at their hotel and not need to use a car until they head to the stadium. If the community is able to create good events to go with the bowl, and local business owners go the extra step to promote their business as wanting the business of the visitors (as we saw in Mobile putting up signs, banners and team flags) the event could prove to be very popular with fans.