CHARLOTTE – In less than a week, the first of an expected 150,000 visitors will begin descending on Charlotte as it hosts the largest sporting event in the city’s history. The NBA All-Star Game will be played Feb. 17 at the Spectrum Center.
But events surrounding the game will begin two days earlier in and around the arena.
City and county officials said the game will have an economic impact of around $100 million. The 2012 Democratic National Convention had an economic impact of $165 million while the 2020 Republican National Convention, which is coming to the Queen City next August, is expected to have an economic impact close to $200 million.
“What we have learned from our city is that we have proven our capabilities,” said Tom Murray, CEO of the Charlotte Regional Visitor’s Authority. “We have delivered very strong customer experiences. After the Democratic National Convention, I can remember them saying, ‘I wish we could hold this here every year’ because of the quality of the experience.”
Murray said hotels across the region will benefit from the All-Star Game.
“Nearly 30 hotels make up an official block with about 32,000 rooms,” Murray said. “While those hotels will be mostly full, a lot of other hotels will benefit from overflow from those hotels and we expect that impact to be quite significant.”
Businesses in and around Uptown will also benefit from the game. One major free event is the NBA Fan Fest at the Epicenter in Uptown. The event runs Feb. 15 to 17 from noon to 7 p.m. Organizers said 25,000 people have already registered in advance. Activities at the Epicentre will include NBA Crossover, player appearances, art and memorabilia displays, apparel customization and panel discussions. Register at www.nbaevents.com.
Murray said events like the fan fest will have a huge impact on the Uptown area.
“So many other hospitality businesses, such as restaurants and other venues, will benefit from the many ancillary events that will take place,’’ Murray said.
Murray said the city will also have ambassadors at the official hotels and that Charlotte-Douglas International Airport will be throwing out the welcome mat.
“Our teams have been working so hard to get the city ready for this day,” Murray said. “When the very first guest steps foot at the airport, they will see the rocking chairs painted in Hornets colors and they will see signage throughout the facility. That welcoming atmosphere will continue as people move across town.”
Charlotte will benefit more than just the direct and indirect economic impact of hosting the game. It is expected that 22 million people will watch the game and the event will generate more than one billion social media impressions.
“The All-Star Game will generate more impressions of our city than we could ever do through traditional marketing,” Murray said. “This will raise Charlotte’s profile just not for tourism but for economic development, too.”
Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles is going to watch at least part of the game with Gov. Roy Cooper but she said she plans to spend considerable time visiting suites in the Spectrum Center before, during and after the game.
What will Lyles say?
“I will tell them that Charlotte is a great place to live and that you should bring your business here,” Lyles said. “This is work for us. It is about the recruitment of good-paying jobs for our city. Every opportunity I have to get before a corporation or a business owner, I am going to be talking about that. We want some of the people to come here and walk through our city and tell their HR people that Charlotte is place to come back and do business.”