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Sunday, April 14
The Indiana Daily Student

city business & economy bloomington

Local economic experts, businesses share plans for eclipse

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As Bloomington gears up for the total eclipse on April 8, local businesses and economic experts are making preparations for what is shaping up to be one of the biggest events for the city in recent history.  

Bloomington is predicted to be directly in the path of totality for the eclipse, meaning those in the city will be situated for optimal viewing during the event. Hundreds of thousands of people are expected to travel to Bloomington from across the country, leaving local businesses to prepare for the influx of guests. 

Christopher Emge, director of advocacy and public policy at the Bloomington Chamber of Commerce, said it’s hard to know yet what the economic impact on the city will be but that up to 300,000 visitors are expected to travel to Bloomington to view the eclipse. 

Many cities are cautioning business owners to prepare early for potential supply shortages and major traffic, which could cause issues such as preventing employees from getting to and from work or shipment delays.  

“Plan ahead on that so that you’re not setting yourself up for either disappointment or disaster,” Emge said.  

Kirkwood Avenue will remain open the day of the eclipse, although some visitors might simply grab a meal or peruse the shops before leaving the city. Emge said he hopes visitors will take a little more time to explore what Bloomington has to offer.  

“This is a town that many of us love,” he said. ”We love to work, play and live here, so just to get them out of their cars at Switchyard Park wandering the many wonderful landscapes down there, or down on Kirkwood or even at IU Memorial Stadium – we think they’ll come back. People have that sort of connection, especially people who enjoy college towns. We have a very unique one.”  

Mike McAfee, executive director of Visit Bloomington, said as long as the weather is nice, there will be at least a couple hundred thousand people watching the eclipse from various locations around Bloomington. He said he expects many people coming to Bloomington to spend money around the city. 

“We’ve used the number of around $180 per day per person is what our visitors spend here, so just think about it: if we do see 200,000 people here on Monday, April 8, do the math,” McAfee said. “If people start coming here on Friday and they’re here all weekend, we’re talking several million dollars in expenditures and impact for sure.”  

One local spot expecting an especially busy day is the Graduate Bloomington hotel, located just down Kirkwood Avenue and a short walk from Sample Gates. Assistant General Manager Matthew Hazen said the hotel opened up reservations for the days surrounding the eclipse a year ago,  and are now filled to around 80% capacity with about 30 rooms left. Hazen said he is expecting a sellout by the day of the eclipse.  

“It’s definitely unlike anything we’ve ever encountered,” Hazen said. “We have our big weekends like football weekend, graduations, basketball, that sort of thing, but it will be an entirely different game for us, so it is a lot of excitement just to see how everything is going to come together.”  

Lodgers at the Graduate will be able to enjoy more than just a good night’s sleep. The hotel is preparing an eclipse party for guests on the Jack & Diane Terrace, an open-air terrace on the fourth floor, right in the sight line of the eclipse. The party will include a bar and an in-house chef along with eclipse-themed chocolates from Bloomington Chocolate Company. Topping it all off will be a bar and countdown clocks to the moment of the eclipse.  

Hazen said the Graduate’s goal is to create a holistic experience for guests, which includes parking and eclipse viewing experiences.  

“People can check in with us on whatever day they choose to check in: they can park their car in our garage or in our surface lot, they can walk to all their meals and downtown, they can walk to campus and explore,” he said. “And for the eclipse, they don’t have to deal with the traffic of going to a separate event.” 

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