Tar Heel Tattler – January 2005
Paul Norman likes Elizabeth City and loves his alma mater, Elizabeth City State University. Otherwise, he wouldn’t be president of its National Alumni Association. But if he has his way, the school will take the home out of its homecoming football game, effective this fall. He blames greedy local businesses. They say he’s imagining things.
Norman and other alumni contend that local hotels and motels gouge them year after year. About 10,000 to 12,000 fans attend the game each October. “I’ve heard of rates being increased as much as 75% or 100%.” He says alumni also are required to put up deposits three months in advance and cannot get refunds if they cancel less than three weeks in advance.
Gregg Lasseter, president of the Albemarle Regional Hospitality Association, a trade group that counts six Elizabeth City hotels and motels among its 22 members, denies price gouging. Lasseter, who owns a bed-and-breakfast in Columbia, says some hotel owners have told him they even have discounted rooms for the weekend.
Norman, dean of students at Wake Technical Community College, isn’t buying it and has asked Elizabeth City State Chancellor Mickey Burnim to move this year’s game. “The Tidewater area of Virginia is only about 45 minutes north of Elizabeth City, and we’re also looking at Rocky Mount.” Burnim has promised a decision this month.
Moving the game would reduce the school’s financial take and make it harder for students to attend. The college depends on alumni for money, and it doesn’t want to risk offending the group. But it also depends on businesses in Elizabeth City. Burnim has appointed a committee of alumni and merchants to study the issue.
Even if the game stays in town, the alumni association has approved a boycott of city hotels. Members will stay elsewhere, likely the Hampton Roads area of Virginia and drive to the game on Saturday. Lasseter says a boycott will make the situation worse. “Hotels donate to the university, and they comp rooms for speakers there throughout the year.”
Sure, Norman says, there’s no place like home. But his group will back down only if it gets written assurances on room rates, deposits and refund policies. “We would love to stay in Elizabeth City. It’s the home of our college. It’s where we want to be.”