CLEVELAND - Hundreds of thousands of people are expected to flood downtown Cleveland Saturday for the annual St. Patrick’s Day parade and NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships.
Thursday and Friday, about 20,000 fans flooded Quicken Loans Arena amid the 3-day tournament being held in Cleveland for the first time.
Loyal wrestling fans, mostly from out of town, are expected to have an estimated $15 million economic impact, according to Destination Cleveland.
“We got ten people here staying at an Airbnb, so we've spent like $1,200 for a place for everyone to stay,” said Penn State fan Jim Black, visiting from Baltimore.
Shane Mignogna, from Mentor, said he usually travels to the event out of town but still opted to book a hotel room with friends downtown with the event in Cleveland.
“This is about my tenth year in a row, so there's a group of us every year, we get tickets, and no matter where it's at we fly there and have a good time,” Mignogna said.
Wrestling fans have provided a big boost to bars and restaurants like Flannery’s Pub, ahead of its busiest day of the year. The Irish pub was stocking up ahead of its 6 a.m. opening Saturday.
General Manager Sean O’Donnell said it expects to do five times the sales compared with a typical Saturday, infused by the tournament.
“With it being wrapped in with the NCAA wrestling tournament this year, it's above and beyond,” O’Donnell said.
With the holiday on a Saturday, between 300,000 and 500,000 people are expected downtown for the annual St. Patrick’s Day parade along Superior Avenue. It kicks off just after 1 p.m.
David Gilbert, with Destination Cleveland, said the wrestling tournament may have the greatest impact since the majority of people attending it are from out of town, while the parade draws a local crowd.
“What we really measure is dollars spent from outside Northeast Ohio that come into Northeast Ohio,” he said. “95 percent plus from outside Northeast Ohio, they're coming into town for 3, 4, 5 days or more, spending money on hotels, on retail on restaurants.”
Gilbert said the nationally televised event also helps improve Cleveland’s reputation to outsiders, which can have a lasting impact.
“It really changes their view of Cleveland,” he said. “And they go back, and they spread the word.”