ELKHART — The BCS Championship game between Notre Dame and Alabama provided a great platform for the Lerner Theatre’s first foray into hosting a viewing of a sporting event, general manager Dave Smith said.
Smith estimated that 700 to 800 people would filter into the theater by the end of the game. That total included more than 250 fans that arrived for the pregame “tailgate party,” held in the Crystal Ballroom.
“We’ve been thinking about sporting events for a while,” Smith said, “but we weren’t quite sure how it would work.”
The gathering of Irish faithful appeared to prove that it had.
The lively crowd was dealt a few blows early, offering a collective groan of disbelief at several controversial calls and two first quarter touchdowns for the Tide. They remained invested, however, cheering and clapping for each Irish gain and defensive stop.
“There’s nothing better than watching football with like fans,” Smith observed when asked what drew people to the Lerner. The large projector screen didn’t hurt, either, noted Brian Jamison, an usher for the theater who was in attendance Monday night as a fan.
The Lerner was also an attractive option for those who were not able to watch the game at home. Elkhart resident Joe Warman said he came to the theater because he doesn’t have cable at home, and had also enjoyed the pregame buffet.
Smith concluded by saying he was pleased to be able to offer the game experience to residents for free, or less than $20 for those who participated in the tailgate. “The Lerner Theatre is really owned by the citizens of Elkhart,” he explained. “They should have opportunities to enjoy it.”