Lawrence businesses cautiously optimistic about Big 12 plans to play football

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LAWRENCE, Kan. — Big news in the Big 12: The conference plans to play fall sports, including football.

The green light for football season is an exciting announcement, but some people are questioning whether it will really happen and wondering about the impact on fans and the community.

“It has been a wild couple of days,” Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby said during a conference call Wednesday.

He said the decision to play fall sports has been a 5-week process with input from student athletes and health experts to move forward in the safest way possible.

It’s exciting news to KU senior Derrick Serrano.

“My past three years at KU I have loved game days,” he said.

Serrano is thankful that his last year at KU will be one with football. It’s something he said his brothers in the Phi Kappa Psi house have been watching carefully.

“I mean, seeing the other conferences cancel, that was kind of tough honestly,” Serrano said.

On Wednesday’s call, Bowlsby acknowledged fans like Serrano.

“Fans of college football are a huge part of game day, and so I think we all agree that we’re not going to have full stadiums,” Bowlsby said.

He made it clear that individual universities and local health departments will determine how many people will be able to attend the games.

Less fans in the stands doesn’t necessarily mean a bigger windfall for bars.

Located just off campus, The Wheel is one of the hottest spots during football season. Owner Rob Farha told FOX4 that he doesn’t know what this means for his business.

He voluntarily closed in June when the Douglas County Health Department shut down bars that don’t serve food after a COVID-19 outbreak at another popular spot, The Hawk.

Farha said packed bars for football games will most likely not be a possibility.

“It just brings so many people downtown. There’s such an energy,” said David Hawley, owner of Papa Keno’s Pizzeria. “People are tailgating. Delivery goes up. There’s a lot of parties.”

Hawley is exited about what this means for his business. He has a different business model than the bars and is hoping to benefit from the Big 12’s decision.

“Excited about the possibility but still a little freaked out and concerned over the health risks,” Hawley said.

Hawley took a hit when the NCAA cancelled its basketball tournament last spring. His cautious optimism is because he worries that if there is another spike caused by football, students in the bars or being back on campus, there could be another total shutdown, which no business owner wants.

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