Continental championships add pace to slow season
It's eight o'clock in the morning and a smile spreads across Finn McCool's manager Keith Patterson's face as he begins talking about the economic impact that simultaneous month-long international soccer tournaments are having on the Mid-City bar.
The playing of the UEFA European championship and the Copa America Centenario this month has seen Finn’s hours expand to nearly 20 hours a day. The bar has been opening each morning in time to broadcast the first of three daily Euro 2016 group stage games from France, which kickoff locally at 8 and 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Then the Copa America Centenario, the 100th anniversary of the South American championship, which has been expanded to include six teams from North and Central America and the Caribbean and is being played in the United States, keeps games running through the early evening to nearly midnight.
“It’s almost two different sets of fans coming for each tournament,” Patterson said. “We’ve got the European fans and the expats who will come in early in the morning. And then at nighttime, we’re getting the U.S. fans, as well as people who have moved here from Central and South America, who are supporting their teams. It’s been a fun month.”
Finn McCool’s has gained a national reputation as New Orleans go-to soccer bar, but it’s also a community for immigrants away from their home culture. “We have English, Welsh, South Africans, New Zealanders, of course Irish, and more from all over,” the Belfast native said. “We consider ourselves one big community, so to open up at eight o’clock for big games between big rivals back home is important. Everyone is having a great time.”
Twenty-hour days are tough, but the draw to watch soccer in an otherwise slow season makes it worthwhile, he said.
“Summer, historically, in New Orleans is going to be a slow time for tourism in the city,” Paterson said. “We’re a neighborhood bar but it affects the whole city. So having this in June really does help sales and helps us get through the summer months.”
Patterson said he’s astounded to see some patrons on a daily basis during big tournaments like the Euros, Copa America and World Cup.
“I used to wonder what they did for a living. How could they afford to be here every day? Then I found out they saved their vacation days to take off so they could be here to watch the games and follow the tournament. It’s definitely, definitely a fun time.”