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Does FGCU have the traditional college-town feelin...
Does FGCU have the traditional college-town feelin...: With the school's recent NCAA success, it's expected that FGCU's college-town feeling and local support will strengthen. Video by Andrea Rumbaugh/News-Press.com
FGCU fans Sierra Griffin, left, Lindsey DiLeonardo, along with other fans react to FGCU's victory over San Diego State at Miller's Ale House Restaurant at Gulf Coast Town Center. / Jack Hardman/news-press.com
FGCU fans Micah Hodges, 17, right, and Gavin McGuiness, 17 cheer for the Eagles as they watch the game at Miller's Ale House Restaraunt at Golf Coast Town Center on Sunday. / Jack Hardman/The New-Press

Watch parties

The FGCU Alumni Association is hosting these local watch parties:
• Bar Louie at Gulf Coast Town Center
• Boston Beer Garden in Naples

FGCU fans cheer for the Eagles as they watch the game at Miller's Ale House Restaraunt at Golf Coast Town Center on Sunday. / Jack Hardman/The New-Press

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MORE FGCU COVERAGE
Get in-depth coverage as FGCU gets ready to take on Florida on Friday in the South Regional semifinals at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

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FGCU NCAA tourney video library | FGCU photo galleries

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Southwest Florida has the basic elements of a college town: university (check) nearby bars and restaurants (check) winning basketball team (check).

And with this recent NCAA success, FGCU is looking to gain some of that true college-town swag.

But what makes a college town?

Students at the university said college towns have student involvement, a fun atmosphere, places to hangout, Greek life, tailgating and camaraderie with the community. And although many of them described Southwest Florida as an nontraditional college town, they said students still have fun.

“Honestly, it’s still coming up,” said Jessica Favia, a 20-year-old nursing student. “Things are developing, but there’s things that college kids do around here that are definitely fun. I have a good time.”

FGCU doesn’t have its own downtown, but this could give the school a unique opportunity, said Dan Regelski, director of the Small Business Development Center at FGCU.

Instead of creating a university within a city, FGCU will have the opportunity to create a city around the university.

“We’re going to generate our own city environment over time,” he said.

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And this week’s national spotlight could be the first push toward this development. Until then, he said students are creating their own college-town feeling through activities such as Greek life, church organizations and school clubs.

As for entertainment, they often go to Gulf Coast Town Center, Miromar Outlets, Coconut Point or Bell Tower Shops — as well as the beaches.

Blu Sushi is one of the hotspots at Gulf Coast Town Center. During the week, they come to eat and socialize. But on Thursday night they come to party, said Jorma Teresinski, general manager of Blu Sushi’s three full-sized restaurants and its express version on FGCU’s campus.

The Gulf Coast Town Center’s assortment of bars and restaurants makes it popular to students, though he said it’s more of an nontraditional college atmosphere.

However, the NCAA tournament has put FGCU on the map. Prospective students might start considering Southwest Florida as an option, and he said this could help develop that college feel.

A place for burgers and beer wouldn’t hurt, either.

“It’s the kind of place that college students love,” said Mike McGuigan; co-owner and partner of The Firestone, Los Cabos Cantina and Ford’s Garage.

That’s part of the reason why they’re looking into a Ford’s Garage at Miromar Outlets. Terms have been agreed upon, but a lease hasn’t been signed yet.

And while McGuigan hadn’t thought about naming a burger after one of the players — the burgers are renamed every January — he did make a commitment if the Eagles won the NCAA tournament.

“If they win the national championship, we will put the VIP of the team (and) name the burger after him,” he said.

This type of community support can help create that college-town feel, and the school’s NCAA success may further expand these feelings past the university’s immediate area.

Bob Grissinger, owner of Bennett’s Fresh Roast, said he is as guilty as other business owners of not having FGCU front of mind because it’s in the southern part of the county. The school’s success is a good reminder that it merits support.

“It’s a great little pleasant wake-up call to us all,” he said.

And this week, Bennett’s showed its support by giving a free coffee and doughnut to FGCU students who showed valid student IDs.

It also created a FGCU doughnut. Half of it is covered in green almond icing and the other half in blue vanilla icing. Then the entire thing is dipped in coconut.

“As a shop that recognizes and understands being an underdog, we think it’s appropriate to give them a little salute,” he said.

Connect with Andrea Rumbaugh (Facebook) @AndreaRumbaugh (Twitter)

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