Hot town, summer in the city

Just over a week into summer at IU Bloomington, and the dog days are already upon us.

But don’t let the current sultry, muggy, 100-degree heat fool you — this campus and the surrounding community are anything but sleepy.

New student orientation activities at IU help make Bloomington the city that doesn’t sleep in summer.

The significant foot traffic around Kirkwood Avenue, busy eateries, coffee shops and hotels, and a steady stream of shoppers buying university souvenirs give off little indication that we’re in the midst of IU Bloomington’s off-season.

More and more each summer with increasing enrollment, Bloomington’s batteries are being charged by new student orientation, that time on the IU calendar when bright-eyed, soon-to-be-first-year students and their families get acquainted with everything that IU and the surrounding area have to offer.

Last fall, IU welcomed its second-largest freshman class in the university’s history, with more than 7,400 students. This was the sixth consecutive year that first-year enrollment in Bloomington surpassed the 7,000-student mark.

With these record numbers, it stands to reason that IU’s first-year students and their families will continue to have a major impact on the economic and cultural vitality of our community during the summer months.

“There is definitely a major impact on summer tourism in Bloomington during these weeks (of new student orientation),” confirms Julie Warren, director of tourism at Visit Bloomington. “It’s a huge boost to our hotels and our tourism efforts, and on revenue coming into the community. This is especially true during weekday times, which are typically slower than on weekends.”

Warren says that while her office hasn’t specifically tracked the economic impact of new student orientation, a wealth of anecdotal evidence exists suggesting this annual event is having an overwhelmingly positive effect on the local community.

“We only know what people tell us,” Warren says. “How impressed they are with how beautiful the university is and by how orientation is run. How friendly and helpful everyone is in getting them the information they need. And they’re genuinely surprised by how much there is to do here. This is especially true of people from larger cities, who are amazed by how many great restaurants we have, the shopping, the arts and culture, and the overall urban energy you find here.”

It’s an energy that’s hard not to feel — even for those of us Bloomingtonians for whom new student orientation is but a hazy summer memory.

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