Nov 8, 2013 10:54 PM by Sam Salzwedel

U of A Homecoming crowd returns to big changes

TUCSON - Thousands of University of Arizona alumni are returning to a changed city for Homecoming.

Sergio Fernandez graduated 40 years ago and came from Yuma.

"Everything's different," he said. "Everything's urbanized. Everything is commercialized. And there's a whole lot more people and less parking."

This is the first Homecoming celebration the Aloft Tucson University hotel is open for business. The 150-room property on the corner of Speedway and Campbell Boulevards closed for months during a multi-million-dollar renovation.

"It seems to me that Tucson has a lot of upside," General Manager, Elisabeth James said. "Obviously, the university is a great anchor, but there's certainly a lot of space, and there's a lot of opportunity."

She even said more hotels in the area could help everybody.

"There are times when in order to attract really large groups to the city, you need enough capacity to handle those groups," James said. "There are times when you want more competitors in the neighborhood, so you can get more business."

Matthew Wade manages Wilko, a restaurant on Main Gate Square. He said the area has changed since last homecoming.

"Last year, everything was under construction, so that kind of put a damper on any growth we had," Wade said. "But now that they finally finished doing all the streetcar stuff, we've been getting busy again."

The Wildcats will play the UCLA Bruins at 8 p.m. in their homecoming football game.

Organizers boast the biggest homecoming parade in the country. It starts at 4 p.m. at the corner of First Street and Cherry Avenue. It heads south around The Mall. Gabby Giffords and Mark Kelly are the Grand Marshals.


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