LeBron James' impact off the court is huge, financially, for the people of Cuyahoga Country, Ohio. How huge? Try $50 million this year. That's right -- LeBron's return to Cleveland is expected to net local businesses about .5% of the city's annual metropolitan GDP or more.
[CNBC] Some economists expect the impact to be even greater, predicting an annual nine-figure windfall, taking into account indirect effects on the region overall.
Whatever the final dollar amount, local businesses are already welcoming a boost. "Every restaurant on the street is going to be full, and that's a big deal," said Jude Feyedelem, director of fine dining for Michael Symon Restaurants. His restaurant, Lola, located around the corner from the arena, is booked solid for opening night.
A couple blocks away at newly opened The 9 hotel, advanced bookings are climbing. "We are definitely seeing that with reservations in the future," said Keith Halfmann, COO of Geis Hospitality Group, which partners with Marriott on the property.
Take the ticket resale market, for example. The average price for Thursday's games is around $15 per. Meanwhile, the average ticket price for the Cavs-Knicks game at Quicken Loans Arena is reported to be $759. Granted, it's his return to Cleveland, against a New York team no less, but that's staggering. Average prices for home game seats shot up 224%. Damn.
Then there's apparel. LeBron's jersey sales -- which are #1 in the NBA, of course -- go directly to the league as part of their shared revenue, but all the shirts, hats, sneakers, jackets, baby clothes, etc. sold by individual vendors in the area go squarely back into the local economy. Small businesses in the notoriously hard hit rust belt are seeing dollar signs, and that's huge for the city's tax revenue numbers and gross domestic happiness. LeBron is like an apolitical stimulus package.
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