CLEVELAND — The pictures out of Atlanta Sunday night at the NBA All Star game represent a clear example of what Cleveland can expect next February. Even though people were urged not to come to the city for the game, which had no fans, they still did just to be around the excitement.
Fast forward a year when this will play out here in Cleveland with what many expect to be full capacity by that time at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse—we will likely be looking at an event that lives up to its pre-COVID economic promise, February weather notwithstanding.
"We're certainly hoping that's the case again. No crystal ball, but it is a year away and at least in talking to experts people feel like there is a very good chance of that," said David Gilbert President and CEO Greater Cleveland Sports Commission.
Before we get to that point, the city will first play host in just seven weeks to what has become the fastest growing event in all of sports—the NFL Draft.
On the North Coast Harbor the old warehouses have been demolished north of the stadium and the site is being prepared for the Draft.And while we won't see the massive crowded street scenes like we saw in Nashville in 2019 we also won't see the commissioner in his basement.
"We are absolutely on, the Draft is happening as a large, live, but socially distanced and safe event," Gilbert said. "A lot of the final details of exactly how it will work will be coming out in the next couple of weeks in terms of how people can sign up for their free tickets to the NFL experience and it will be all through pre-timed ticketing so the number of people in their can be controlled and people can safely distanced."
Much like the NBA All-Star game Sunday night, they know people will be coming—ticket or not—to be around the action.
"We're actually counting on that," Gilbert said, adding his team is working on coming up with things for those people to do before and after the hours of the draft.
"They're going to be looking for things to do so if there's more places to eat outside safely and be outside and distanced, we're working on some of those things," Gilbert said.
A check of travel websites shows hotel availability in the suburbs, while the few still with vacancy downtown are also commanding premium pricing, some over $400 a night.