CLEVELAND-- The NBA Finals are drawing thousands of fans, media members and basketball officials to downtown Cleveland, leading to an expected multi-million dollar economic impact for businesses now accustomed to accommodating major events.
"I wanted to watch LeBron, because for me he's one of the best players of our generation, so before he retires, I think it's the perfect time to watch him," said Alfonso Hortleza, visiting with his family from the Philippines.
They're staying at a downtown hotel, purchased Cavs gear and got lunch on East 4th Street.
"Right now, I'm going to see what other sites we can go to in Cleveland before the game," he said.
Destination Cleveland estimates each Finals game has a $5-million economic impact. Nearly all downtown hotel rooms were booked at premium rates.
"What's different this time is we have the experience," said Hilton Cleveland Downtown General Manager Teri Agosta. She said the hotel's 600 guest rooms sold out about a month ago.
"We lay out these scenarios way in advance as to what happens if this team wins? What happens if we're a home team? What happens if we're an away team?" she said, adding hotel management will be closely watching to see if the Cavs advance to a game 6.
Downtown bars were preparing for three times as much business as a regular season game, after a slower playoff run than in past years. The Finals can mean a windfall.
"From where it was five six years ago, you're probably doing a month's worth of business in a week sometimes, especially with Finals and playoffs," said Flannery's General Manager Sean O'Donnel. He said a win or loss can have a major impact on whether fans stick around after a game.
Destination Cleveland said more than 365 international members of the media from more than 35 countries are on site in Cleveland to cover The Finals, plus countless other visitors.
"Not only are we seeing increased business for these games, but with increased visibility, understanding who we are, they're starting to think about it as not just as a destination for a Cavs game but maybe they'll come back for vacation or maybe they'll bring their business meeting," said Jennifer Kramer, Senior Communications Manager for Destination Cleveland.
It's a priceless chance to bring repeat customers to Cleveland.
"People here are very hospitable and very approachable," Hortleza said. "Definitely I will come back here to Cleveland."