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World Cup soccer injects new life into Boise bars

The World Cup crowd at Gone Rogue bar in Boise. Photo by Brad Iverson-Long

The mid-afternoon World Cup crowd at Gone Rogue bar in Boise July 1. Photo by Brad Iverson-Long.

Even casual sports fans have perked up for this year’s World Cup soccer matches. Interest in the international contest, and in the U.S. National Soccer Team, has created a windfall for Boise-area bars, where spectators are streaming in for the games and staying for the beer.

“Normally this time of year, in between NBA finals and football starting up is a dead zone,” said Rob Godsill, the owner of the busy Cheerleaders Sports Bar & Grill in Boise. Godsill estimated business at Cheerleaders had at least doubled from the last World Cup.

“It does help out a lot that it is an exciting year and the USA is playing better then anticipated,” he said.

The 2014 World Cup has been going on since June 12. The American squad exceeded most expectations by advancing from the group stage to the knockout round, for a July 1 afternoon game against Belgium.

The week of June 30, 16 teams, including the U.S. team, were battling it out for first place. Boiseans who couldn’t fly to Brazil made their way instead to standing-room-only sports bars and pubs around the city. Hundreds packed into The Grove in downtown Boise to watch the game on a giant screen donated by the local developer the Gardner Company.

Many bars ran special promotions for the World Cup. Bar owners said interest in soccer seemed to have increased since the last World Cup, which was played in 2010 in South Africa. At that tournament, the U.S. also advanced out of the group stages. That team lost its first knockout game against Ghana, which the 2014 team defeated 2-1 on June 16.

“There has been progressively more interest through the last three World Cups, but this is the most interesting one I can remember,” said Warren O’Dell, a bartender at Hyde Park Pub & Grill.

Morgan Powell

“The World Cup and soccer in general saved this bar,” said Gone Rogue owner Morgan Powell. Photo by Brad Iverson-Long.

The timing of the games appears to have a direct impact on the amount of business they bring in, said bartenders and owners. The fact that the games are happening live during normal operating hours makes them easier for people to go out and watch, they said.

Sam Hlebechuk, manager of the Piper Pub & Grill, said customers had been coming in to watch the World Cup, “but it’s really only been crazy busy during USA games.”

Gone Rogue Pub in BoDo was packed on the afternoon of July 1, as the U.S. game began. Morgan Powell, the pub owner, said his bar was a place that nurtured sports fans.

When it comes to sports, “we know what’s happening and we can talk people through it,” he said. “When it comes to soccer if we don’t know we refer them to a ‘resident’ soccer fan.”

Other U.S. businesses suffered a corresponding drop in productivity. Many office and other workers took time off their jobs July 1 to watch the game.

“It also helps that the time zone is closer than before,” noted O’Dell of Brazil, where Sao Paulo is only three hours ahead of Boise. Hyde Park Pub & Grill has been opening an hour earlier than usual to accommodate World Cup fans. “The earliest game is at 10 am instead of 7 am,” O’Dell said.




About Erika Sather-Smith