Business Unusual: The Tailgater in Your Living Room
It sounds like an idea hatched over an alumni weekend, after more than a few beers: What if there was a housing network just for college football fans? A service that would match up all those rabid Wildcats, Bulldogs, Warriors and Cougars with flat-screen-equipped, Jacuzzi-tubbed homeowners across the country?
Now there's a party in the making--and the concept behind Gameday Housing, an online brokerage run by three Notre Dame alumni. It all started a few years ago, when Geoffrey Polk, a 28-year-old Chicago tax attorney, bought a second home in South Bend, Ind., for the sole purpose of watching his beloved Fighting Irish. Soon, he was renting it to other fans too.
Then last July, he and his college pals Chris Brusznicki and Tom Alessi went pro: Polk and Brusznicki quit their day jobs and worked round the clock to scale their South Bend rental operation into a national one.
Now fans can go to GamedayHousing.com, click on their team and the game they want to attend, and get a list of houses on offer. This season, there was a restored 1904 bungalow in Austin, Texas, for the Texas-Kansas weekend ($1,180), a two-bedroom loft in Marina del Rey, California, for the Stanford-USC game ($800 for two nights) and an actual log cabin in Sevierville, Tenn., for the Tennessee-Vanderbilt showdown ($375 for two nights).
"We have a few homes that regularly earn more than $20,000 a season," Brusznicki says--that's more than $4,000 a weekend. "They're both newer homes in South Bend, just half a mile to the stadium, with amenities like granite countertops and pool tables."
Within six months of going national, Gameday signed up more than 100 homeowners in college football towns across the country and pulled in $100,000 in revenue. Next season, Polk and Brusznicki expect to bring in at least $500,000, and they're considering doing special events like the Super Bowl.
Gameday takes a 20 percent commission; the rest goes to homeowners. That is, to homeowners who rent to people who don't want a cramped hotel room because, Brusznicki points out, it's not the best place to party. So far, there have been only two incidents, he says, and the homeowners had minor omplaints.
The culprits? Notre Dame fans, sorry to say.