ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – Hours before Saturday’s game, Albany Empire fans took to the streets of South Pearl to listen to live music, eat food and even test their football throwing skills before taking their seats.

Season ticket holder Tom Gras says he is hoping for another championship season from the Empire, “I love watching football and having a local team like this. Especially since they won the championship in 2019 and again last year. So it makes me want to come out and see if they can repeat.” 

Gras is not the only person hoping for another winning season from the team. “Based on the talent and roster that the coaches have put together, there’s no reason we shouldn’t be competing for another championship,” says Jeff Levack, team president.

The Empire held a similar block party before the start of the 2021 season, but because of COVID-19 restrictions at the time in New York State, the event was much more scaled back, “we did the block party a little bit but there were so many restrictions and rules and people didn’t really want to come out. I can’t really blame them. This year? We’re ready to go. So here we are,” Levack says,

For businesses along South Pearl Street, like Albany Stadium Restaurant and Bar, Saturday’s block party and the game brought a welcomed boost to business. “The crowds are fantastic. People are in such good moods. The weather is beautiful and these types of events are so wonderful for the community, not just for economic development, but the community spirit to get everyone back outside again,” says Wendi Enright, business partner at the Albany Restaurant and Bar, “we have not been able to do this regularly because of COVID for quite some time, so people are really, really elated.”