CARBONDALE — Mayor Mike Henry wants to make sure Carbondale is ready for the total eclipse in August 2017.
“Believe it or not, we are starting planning,” he said Tuesday at the Carbondale City Council meeting.
He said the Southern Illinois Mayor’s Association, city staff and the tourism department have been working to figure out how to accommodate an extra estimated 50,000 people in Carbondale during the weekend of the eclipse, which will reach the point of greatest duration a few miles south of Carbondale.
The date for the eclipse is Aug. 21, 2017, which is a Monday. Henry said that is also the Monday after the welcome weekend for Southern Illinois University students.
According to SIU, for 2 minutes and 38 seconds, it will be like night in the middle of day during the event in Carbondale.
Henry said hotels in Carbondale will open its books for reservations in August and rates will be tripled. He said many of cabins and bed and breakfast establishments in the area are already reserved.
About seven years after the 2017 eclipse, on April 8, 2024, the same thing will happen again.
“It is extremely important that we perform well in this one and we pull it off,” Henry said. “It is a great opportunity for us to showcase our city, showcase our great university and hopefully help build our enrollment back up at the university.”
He said the city needs to expedite any community investment projects that are “shovel-ready,” particularly the parking where Sidetracks Bar and Grill stands. He also mentioned beefing up on tree planning and landscapes efforts, as well as new street lights for the downtown.
“I can’t emphasize how important this is,” he said.