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NORMAL — Success for Illinois State University's football team has scored points for local businesses, too.

Larry Ernat, manager of the Alamo II in the heart of the ISU campus, said sales of ISU-related merchandise have been “crazy.”

At Meijer, spokesman Joe Hirschmugl said it has been “our most successful year” of selling merchandise.

Local bars and restaurants with TV sets tuned into football have been noticeably more crowded on game days. At least eight establishments in the Twin Cities have been designated as official “watch party” locations for Saturday.

Even people watching from home is good for business.

Ernat expects an increase in sales of beverages and snacks this weekend for tailgate-type gatherings, not only for Saturday's ISU game against North Dakota State, but also for NFL playoff games Saturday and Sunday and for Monday night's other national championship between Oregon and Ohio State.

Ken Whitlatch, who handles operations for Dick's Sporting Goods in Normal said ISU merchandise always sells well.

“We just got through our busy season,” he said.

Meijer started the school year with “Meijer Mania” — a special event aimed at college students that included 50 percent off coupons for ISU merchandise.

“We're not jumping on the bandwagon; we've been on the bandwagon,” Hirschmugl said. “It's been a season long thing.”

With the football team's success, Meijer added more merchandise, often working with local vendors, he said.

Ernat of Alamo II said, “It's been really encouraging to see the students and community rallying around the team.”

Every time the Redbirds win, “sales have grown,” he said. “The excitement has been real strong.”

And if the Redbirds win on Saturday?

"We just have to be ready," Ernat said.

In addition to the usual Redbird gear, Alamo II is carrying the official championship game shirts, displaying the helmets of ISU and North Dakota State.

ISU senior LaRae Wertz bought two of them on Tuesday to take with her to Texas where she will be seeing the game.

Most students are still home on break, but Wertz is from Clinton and the special education major is student teaching at Colene Hoose Elementary School in Normal.

“I've had fun being part of Red Alert for four years,” Wertz said of the student fan group. “I've been following the team and it just worked out.”

She will be going to the game with a Clinton High School classmate whose family now lives in the Dallas area.

Calling the trip to the championship “a once in a lifetime thing,” Wertz expressed thanks to her parents for helping her make it to the game.

In addition to special game t-shirts, Wertz bought temporary tattoos.

“I'll have a little Redbird to put on my face,” she said.


Education Reporter

Education Reporter for The Pantagraph.

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