ORLANDO, Fla. —  The Florida Classic Football game is back this year after being canceled because of COVID-19 concerns in 2020.

Organizers and county leaders are anticipating this year’s Nov. 20 event to be a welcome boost for the local economy. 

What You Need To Know

  •  The Florida Classic Football game will be held this year after being canceled in 2020 over COVID-19 concerns

  •  The Nov. 20 game will be the 75th meeting of Florida A&M and Bethune-Cookman University

  • Area businesses welcome the return to the game and expect it to be a boon for the local economy

“Its a nice kickoff to the bowl season I think it also sends out the message to really the whole country that Orange County is open for business,” Orange County Comptroller Phill Diamond said.

The Florida Classic will see Florida A&M play Bethune-Cookman University in a rivalry that goes back nearly 100 years. This year's meeting at Camping World Stadium will be the 75th time the two teams have played.

According to information from the Florida Classic website, the game is "now the largest football game between two historically Black colleges in America."

While case numbers are down, Diamond reported recently that tourism tax dollars are flat and didn’t show a sign of decline or increase. That could possibly change, he said, with a number fall events like the Florida Classic happening this year.

“When people come in to town, whether its for a bowl game or for something else, they are going to go eat at a restaurant and there are people that work at that restaurant that are going to getting tips, the restaurant owner is going to make a little bit of money people selling souvenirs, people driving Ubers or a taxi,” Diamond said.

Already, many area business owners are getting ready for the influx of customers and patrons the Classic could bring to the City Beautiful. Karl Brown is no stranger to serving up food from the kitchen at Oley’s restaurant in Orlando

“Oley’s has been in business for about 23 years,” he said. 

Brown is the owner — and has been here since the beginning — ushering his business through good times and bad, like the coronavirus pandemic.

A shutdown prompted by the virus slowed business for months, but with cases down things are turning a corner, allowing big events like the Florida Classic to come back. 

“It means a lot, you know, because with the pandemic, it really affected business and now it's good to see things start to go back to normal,” Brown said. 

Organizers said in past years the Florida Classic had an economic impact of more than $25 million. Brown is hoping his business gets some of the surge from this year’s event. 

“Our busiest day of the year was always on Sunday, the breakfast after the classic, so we are hoping that the tradition continues this year," he said.

Tramaine Gaines, CEO of Gaines Entertainment, said last year his business took a big hit due to the pandemic because his company had to switch to virtual events for the Florida Classic. This year he’s preparing for a free event with the hopes of bringing people to the Orlando community. 

“Its a free event we are giving away some great prizes, we have some awesome sponsors," Gaines said. "People have to book flights, they have to buy hotel room, they have to buy meals."

Meals like the ones whipped up in Brown's kitchen at Oley’s. He and his team are already preparing for Classic crowds — and the businesses they could potentially bring. 

“You look for things that always affect your bottom line … so classic or any big sporting event that comes along that a lot of people support is definitely helpful for a business,” Brown said. 

Events for the Florida Classic kick off the week of Nov. 15, leading up to the big football game at Camping World stadium on Saturday, Nov. 20.