Last month's student green light for a football program at Kennesaw State University has city officials gearing up for major infrastructure and economic changes in Kennesaw.
After a week of voting, almost 56 percent of the student body approved a $100 per-semester football fee, one of the last hurdles in bringing the sport to the university.
Approval of the program is also contingent upon a fundraising campaign that would need to raise between $8 million and $12 million over the next couple years.
"I think bringing something like (collegiate football) to the community is going to have a dramatic, positive impact, not just for KSU, but also for all the surrounding businesses," said Kennesaw Mayor Mark Mathews.
"It'll affect Kennesaw as well, not just KSU and the campus," he said.
According to a Football Exploratory Committee report released by KSU, the city of Kennesaw should anticipate a significant economic boon from the program, with $60,000 flowing into the community from sales tax on tickets alone.
Combine this figure with 10,000 projected spectators spending an average of $150 apiece on dining, shopping, and lodging.
"I believe that any activity that brings a large, diverse group of people to Kennesaw has the potential to have a positive financial impact in the local economy," Councilmember Bruce Jenkins said.
Jenkins, who has served on the City Council since 2005, predicts university alumni to comprise a significant amount of spectators.
"Many KSU grads may not have returned in years and will be pleasantly surprised at the growth and development of their school and the surrounding community," he said.
"Kennesaw State has had remarkable growth and positive impact on our community. We have seen many graduates buy homes in our city and begin raising families here," said Jenkins.
Kennesaw State University President Daniel Papp has long supported the proposed program.
"There are many parameters of what make up a nationally recognized university," he wrote in his September 15 remarks on the Exploratory Committee Report.
"Throughout most of the country, but particularly in the American south, most people believe that football is a necessary prerequisite to national recognition," he said.
With that recognition, however, come consequences. Increased visitors to the city not only means more revenue, but more congestion.
The Football Exploratory Committee report enumerated several concerns regarding Kennesaw's ability to handle large amounts of football fans. Infrastructure concerns in the report included diminished air quality, increased solid waste, possible water shortages, and – of course – increased traffic.
Mayor Mathews acknowledges the gravity of some of these issues.
"I think any time you have a large number of people coming to one central area for a special event, you're going to have traffic problems," he said.
Mathews also indicated that he perceived the university's new soccer field as an opportunity to "work through the kinks" of hosting large sporting events.
Kennesaw State University's Soccer Complex opened on May 2, 2010, and is the largest women's-only soccer stadium in the world. Boasting 8,300 seats, the stadium has quickly become a popular location for collegiate and professional soccer matches.
"The international soccer events draw quite a big crowd," Mathews said. "And [traffic] is just going to be something that we're going to have to deal with."
City Councilmember Jeff Duckett agrees that the soccer program has proven to be an invaluable learning experience for the university.
"The new soccer stadium has had an issue with parking, and they're working on that," he said.
Duckett added that he feels the city's infrastructure is capable of handling crowds, and that the university has just a few things to fix before being fully prepared for football.
Other city officials downplayed concerns of increased traffic on game day.
"Communities adjacent to college campuses have been hosting football crowds for years, so there's plenty of role models out there about how to do it right," Jenkins said.
"From a public safety perspective, the campus and Cobb County resources will be primarily responsible for handling traffic," he said.
According to Communications Manager Pamela Davis, Kennesaw State University falls outside of the city limits of Kennesaw, placing the bulk of the strain upon Cobb County's infrastructure.
Since the football program isn't expected to be functional until at least 2014, the city has time to prepare for the changes ahead.
"We're not talking about something that's sudden," Davis said. "Given the amount of time we have to prepare for this, the main thing we feel right now is excitement for the program."