CLEVELAND — The most oft-quoted line around the start of every baseball season is Alexander Pope’s “hope springs eternal.” The opener represents a new beginning, a clean slate, and optimism. This year, though, that feeling extends beyond the gates of the ballpark on the corner of Carnegie and Ontario and onto E. 4th Street, West 6th Street, the Flats and all over downtown Cleveland.
“This just feels like the energy and everything coming back the way that we used to have it in Downtown Cleveland. We’ve not had a full season of baseball in two years,” said Michael Deemer, President and CEO of the Downtown Cleveland Alliance. “It's a big deal for downtown that these small businesses that have been so entrepreneurial and so resilient about hanging on are going to have a full season and a full house on opening day.”
Count Pickwick and Frolic owner Nick Kostis among them.
“It is a new beginning for so many of the businesses downtown. The opening up of the weather and maybe opening up of everybody's front door coming out,” he said.
Kostis will tell you downtown restaurants are event-driven and in the no fans, shortened season of 2020, downtown restaurant sales were as flat as the plastic cutouts that filled the stands.
2021 marked the limited return of people to start with expanded capacity into the summer. Still, attendance was down 7,500 fans a game from 2019, only once getting above 30,000 last year. While the pandemic hit everyone equally going in it’s been a long road for downtown bars and restaurants coming out.
“So it's heartening to see some new resurgence but we're not there yet,” he added. “It's still going to take some time to come back to anything that we knew as normal.”
The return of baseball this summer is just part of the equation as is the increasing return of people to downtown offices along with what Deemer said is in the pipeline this summer.
“I think this is going to be a big comeback year for Downtown Cleveland. The last two years have been really hard on us. They've undermined the density that downtown's thrive on but we've got a full season of baseball, we've got a full season of theater, we've got a portfolio of events across downtown with the Juneteenth Festival, the Tall Ships Festival, Pride and so many others happening and we're just encouraging people to come back to downtown, rediscover their old favorites, check out all of the new places that have opened and really fall back in love with downtown all over again.”