Five ways Eli Manning put Oxford on the map
When it comes to charm, good eats, fun times and a million reasons to stick around, the cozy, quaint college town of Oxford, Miss. speaks for itself. However, according to an article published by the Clarion-Ledger, the “Eli Manning effect” is to thank for the exponential growth the city has seen since the legendary and much-loved former Ole Miss quarterback first set foot on Hollingsworth Field.
Here are 5 things making Oxford relevant since Eli made his mark:
1. Since Eli left in 2003, Oxford has won a plethora of awards such as Money Magazine’s Top 100 Best Places to Live in 2007, Outside Magazine’s 20 Best Small Towns in America in 2008 and Top 101 Safest Cities in the United States in 2017, according to safehome.org. Oxford was also named The South’s Best Food Town by Southern Living in 2018.
2. From 2001 through 2003, Eli helped grow the town’s weekend growth and exposure. Tourism has become Oxford’s leading industry, according to Oxford Mayor Robyn Tannehill. From Ole Miss sporting events and the annual Double Decker Arts Festival to the town’s overall food, art and literary culture, there’s something special about Oxford that leaves weekend visitors wanting to come back for more.
3. When Eli arrived in 2000, Oxford’s population was 13,572, according to data from the US Census Bureau. By 2010, population numbers had grown to 18,916. Today, the census data estimates the city’s population to be around 23,639. Include the nearly 24,000 students enrolled at the University of Mississippi. Nine months out of the year Oxford is close to housing 50,000 people.
4. Due largely in part to its quick growth, a current big-city problem facing the small town is its traffic. The City of Oxford is taking steps to alleviate these growing pains, starting with an 11 million dollar investment in a downtown parking garage. The garage will house approximately 400 spots, making 1,200 public parking spaces available on and around the Square. Construction is set to begin on Aug. 27, according to the City of Oxford’s website.
5. Last, but not least, the 10-acre holy grail of tailgating, more commonly known as The Grove, draws in crowds from far and wide. It does not matter if they cheer for the Rebels, the opponent, the SEC or football in general – gameday after gameday, year after year, the crowds are ever present and evergrowing. Upon being named football’s top tailgating site by Sports Illustrated, the gameday culture at Ole Miss has transformed since 1990 when Vaught-Hemingway Stadium didn’t even have lights for night games. It’s fair to assume Eli’s contributions to the success of Ole Miss Football in his years as a player jumpstarted the national exposure to The Grove and overall growth of the gameday culture that exists in Oxford today, especially when he left his mark by leading the team to a 10-2 record his senior season.
Eli’s legendary pedigree combined with his grit and determination to make the Ole Miss Rebels to a top contender in the SEC has done nothing but continue to grow and flourish the small and charming town of Oxford. Manning, along with his wife Ashley and his three daughters, still lives in Oxford when he isn’t suiting up for the New York Giants. This year will mark his 15th season as the quarterback for the NFL team.
From one Oxonian to another – Eli, thanks for calling Oxford home.