Downtown businesses hoping Penny Hardaway draws crowds

MEMPHIS, Tenn. - - Downtown businesses are hoping "Penny Mania" means big bucks next basketball season.

The New Tiger's basketball coach is expected to boost attendance and foot traffic around the FedEx Forum on game days.

Season tickets went on sale today, and while the University couldn't give us specific numbers on sales, a spokesman did say that sales are off to a good start.

That's a good sign for businesses on Beale Street that haven't seen a heavily attended Tiger's game in a while.

Under former head coach Tubby Smith, attendance dropped, and so did game day foot traffic for businesses near the forum.

Randy Hales is general manager at King Jerry Lawler Hall of Fame Bar and Grill, which is on Beale. He says this past season was really rough.

"You know, we've actually had games where we hadn't got anybody. Not one person," he says.

With Penny Hardaway in the fold, he expects that to change.

"I think we'll be full before every Tiger game," Hales says.

As a Memphis basketball star and former NBA great, Hardaway is likely to fill seats at the forum in a way Tubby never could.

"We're going to get a winner in Penny and we're going to get a local hero. So, you can't go wrong," Hales says.

Hales says his restaurant gets four times more foot traffic when the forum has an event that's either sold out or close to sold out. He thinks Penny will bring that kind of crowd.

"The whole season I think will be fantastic," Hales says.

He expects the other businesses on Beale to have similar success.

"I think, not just us, I think everybody will do real good," Hales says.