CLEVELAND — In November a headline appeared that one might have thought was a parody, something out of The Onion, it listed Cleveland as one of the "best places to travel in February!" But the source of the November writeup was none other than Travel and Leisure Magazine and their recommendation was real, fueled by the city's role in hosting the star-studded NBA All-Star game weekend from February 20-22.
"In many ways, it's their Super Bowl," said David Gilbert President and CEO of the Greater Cleveland Sports Commission. "Because it's the one major event they have where they know where it's going to be and they can plan far ahead of time. You know the NBA Finals are enormous but they don't know until a few days out where they're going to be held."
You need to look no further than Atlanta, which hosted the 2021 NBA All-Star Game without fans because of COVID-19. The NBA actually urged fans not to come to Atlanta but they still did just to be around it. As a result, Cleveland's preparing for a crowd.
"We're not telling the world to stay away," said Gilbert. "And in fact with the 75th anniversary it really even elevates the stakes of the types of celebrities that will be here and the excitement around it. It is stacking up to be one heck of a few days in our city."
As a result, all downtown hotels are booked solid with the nearest availability at the airport and suburbs.
"Not only are those hotels downtown sold out and so many others around the area but they're sold out at a rate two, three times or more then what they normally would be," Gilbert said.
The wild card of course is the omicron variant which Gilbert said they continue to monitor and he expects adjustments will be made.
"But I think right now it's a little too early to tell what those will be but certainly we feel the event is going to be going on as scheduled."
Seven weeks ago we hadn't yet heard of omicron which first came to light in South Africa where indications are their peak has passed.
Organizers are hoping as they look six weeks forward things too will have changed in the meantime they plan for a party.
"We feel good that the right safety measures will be put into place and certainly the public will know well ahead of time to be able to prepare but it's really still too early to think about exactly what those things will be," he said.