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Copperas Cove holds town hall for discussions on preparing for upcoming solar eclipse

Second town hall meeting on Thursday, Jan. 26, 5:30 p.m. at the Copperas Cove Civic Center


Cove Leader-Press

A handful of business owners and city employees attended the business town hall held last Thursday evening at the Civic Center to discuss next year’s total solar eclipse. The meeting was the first of two, with a second meeting held last evening as part of the Chamber of Commerce’s monthly business mixer.

Copperas Cove is projected to be in the path of totality on April 8, 2024, with the totality visible for 4 minutes and 22.77 seconds, starting at 12:18:35 p.m. CDT. Neighboring Killeen is expected to be in the path of totality for 4 minutes and 16.2 seconds, while Lampasas is expected to be in the path of totality for 4 minutes and 24.3 seconds.

Millions of people are expected to travel throughout the continent to follow and see this solar eclipse, and cities are starting to prepare now for that influx of tourists. According to the Great American Eclipse website, four major cities in Texas will be the site of these eclipse viewers: San Antonio, Austin, Dallas and Fort Worth.

Last Thursday’s townhall served as a starting point for city officials to communicate with residents and especially local business owners regarding preparing for this solar eclipse, with a focus on how businesses could benefit financially.

Parks and Recreation Director Jeff Stoddard gave a brief presentation of information about the solar eclipse and focused on the cities and towns that were in the path of the last solar eclipse in 2017.

One key takeaway from Friday’s town hall was for residents and businessowners to expect traffic to be at a standstill, for people to be stuck in this area, and that this eclipse would be “bigger than the Super Bowl.”

Stoddard told the small audience that he predicted that Copperas Cove would be “overrun” with visitors during the solar eclipse.

Stoddard’s presentation included tidbits of advice for business owners, such as hiring private security if business owners want only customers in their parking lots.

In the city of Grand Island, Nebraska, which was in the path of totality during the 2017 solar eclipse, city officials estimated 40,000 to 50,000 visitors to their city during the three day event for the solar eclipse. Grand Island’s population in 2017 was just barely over 51,000.

Hotels in the city were able to charge a three-night minimum and were completely full during the three days, with increased pricing. There were also lots of pop-up vendors throughout the city selling eclipse themed items or their own wares.

Stoddard mentioned Clarksville, Tennessee, which had a population of just over 153,000 in 2017. This city did some pre-planning but nothing significant for the solar eclipse and saw restaurants and hotels completely packed. Local businesses made a profit by selling solar eclipse logo merchandise/souvenirs.

“I really strongly suggest that you get the word out to the people of the businesses of Copperas Cove because that’s revenue for you,” Stoddard said.

Stoddard also shared a Facebook post from a resident of one of the cities that saw an influx of tourists due to the solar eclipse back in 2017, calling for residents to be understanding of the tourists who are in an unfamiliar place.

“The reason why I snuck that in there is that I think we as a community need to understand that we’re going to see a lot of new faces here in town that weekend prior,” Stoddard said. “I think this rings true. We have a national, if not international, stage to show what a great community we have, and this is going to be a testament because everyone in this community is going to be stressed. Everyone is going to be packed, so this is something that when I read it, I’m like, ‘This is beautiful.’ I love this because this is what we want to make sure that our citizens or businesses and everybody else is portraying to all these visitors that are coming into our city.”

City councilmember Fred Chavez, who was previously the director of the Mayborn Science Theater planetarium at Central Texas College during the 2017 eclipse, informed the crowd that a lot of people with disposable income will be coming to the area as they followed the eclipse, looking for the best view.

Chavez encouraged anyone who had an idea to come forward and share it with the city and the Chamber. He also advised that people should be prepared for that week to see every restaurant and grocery store and retailer “wiped out” as visitors come into the city.

Stoddard shared that one idea the city has is with the newly renamed Copperas Cove Spring Festival, which was formerly the Food Truck Festival. In 2024, this festival will be the weekend before the eclipse, and it could be an event to entice people to come earlier and stay longer, rather than just coming for the eclipse on that Monday and leaving immediately.

Chamber of Commerce interim president Nancy Nelson has been compiling a committee together that will be comprised of city staff, the Chamber of Commerce, business owners, the school district and more.

The topic of short-term rentals, such as VRBO or Airbnb, during this week was also brought up. During the 2017 solar eclipse, one family made $10,000 for the week renting out their four-bedroom house, according to Kevin March, Copperas Cove Public Library Director. Stoddard explained that city staff are tossing around ideas, such as having civic organizations at each of the city’s parks, while market vendors set up downtown, which would be shut down on that day. For more information on the solar eclipse and its path for 2024, readers can visit april-8-2024. 

Copperas Cove Leader Press

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