hmmm.... ASU is now the largest university in the USA with 51,612 students

Tempe business boom helped by ASU

Growing campus contributes to high sales figures

by Kelsey Perry published on Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Businesses in the Mill Avenue District flourished in 2005, due in part to an increase in student enrollment at ASU.

Taxable sales downtown rose 8 percent from 2004 to 2005, said Rod Keeling, president of the Downtown Tempe Community.

"I think it has everything to do with ASU," Keeling said, "The University really drives everything."

Sarah Auffret, an ASU spokeswoman, said ASU's Tempe campus saw an increase of more than 2,000 students from 2004 to 2005.

"The Tempe campus has 51,612 students this year," Auffret said, "which makes it the largest in the United States."

A boost in tourism, a small spike in downtown employment and a general increase in the nation's economy also contributed to the jump in sales, Keeling said.

Although business in the Mill Avenue District has increased every year, the last two years saw a smaller rise due to the national recession caused by the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, Keeling said.

"I view it as a rebound from two difficult years," he said.

Keeling added that Tempe's smoking ban and more competition from stores, bars and restaurants in surrounding cities also affected sales. But businesses in the Mill Avenue District began focusing more on the nonconformist, urban, eclectic crowd, which makes up the majority of their customers.

"We're a little bit more on target to that customer than we have been in the last few years, he said.

Dave Peterson, general manager of Hooters in downtown Tempe, said P.F. Chang's Rock 'n' Roll Marathon and Half-Marathon, ASU football games and the Fiesta Bowl helped business boom last year for the restaurant.

"As those [events] grow, we grow with them," Peterson said.

Although summertime was slow for the restaurant, the rest of the year was busy, he said.

Also, the controversy of the smoking ban imposed last year is beginning to fade, bringing smokers to Tempe again, he said.

"I think people are starting to get over that," he said.

Tempe residents voted in 2004 to approve Arizona's toughest indoor smoking ban, which prohibited smoking in bars and restaurants.

Peterson said he fears business will be hurt by the relocation of the Fiesta Bowl and the Arizona Cardinals to a new stadium in the West Valley in 2006.

But Keeling said that the environment and culture created in downtown Tempe is enough to sustain businesses.

"There are about 40,000 people here every day," Keeling said. "We think they'll continue to come."

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