All-Star week positions Cleveland as a high-energy sport entertainment hub
In terms of hosting high-profile sport events in Ohio, Columbus and Cincinnati are climbing the ladder, but still trail the city of Cleveland. It is no accident that Cleveland, the city of unpredictable weather and phenomenal cultural energy, has been scoring a string of national and international sporting events at a faster pace than Columbus and Cincinnati combined. The MLB All-star festivities in Cleveland last week was just the latest all-encompassing event that left a favorable impression upon the city known worldwide for its Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame and in America as the fictional location for Major League, the 1989 sport comedy movie featuring Charlie Sheen as Ricky ‘Wild Thing’ Vaughn on the greatest imaginary baseball team in Indian’s history.
Although Charlie Sheen wasn’t anywhere to be found, renditions of the song “Wild Thing” by the Troggs was heard numerous times during MLB’s All-Star Week that attracted 2000 media personnel and generated an estimated $65 million in visitor spending for Cleveland local businesses. A record $642,000 was donated to Little League baseball based on a formula accounting for the number of home runs hit in each round of the Derby (How ’bout the 91 dingers from the Blue Jays 20-year old rookie, Vladimir Guerrero Jr??!!). Sunday’s Rock n’ Blast Fireworks following the All-Star Celebrity Softball and MLB Futures Games took three days and a crew of 24 to set-up. Playball Park, a phenomenal interactive baseball festival, attracted almost 150,000 fans. A Forbes report noted “Cleveland opened the Red Carpet to the world for baseball, and in a way won their own Home Run Derby.”
The Greater Cleveland Sport Commission and Destination Cleveland (Visitor Center) work harmoniously to court high profile events such as the upcoming 2021 NFL Draft and 2022 NBA All-Star Game. Can koozies with the slogan “Rock the Clock” (NFL Draft 2021) are already in circulation. Numerous NFL and NBA executives were on site during the MLB All-Stat week to scope out locations and build on ideas for their own indoor and outdoor fan-fest events. Just around the corner, Cleveland is hosting the World YoYo Championships and the national Triathlon Championships. In its repertoire of recent high-profile sport events are numerous NCAA championships, the 2016 MLB World Series (Go Tribe!), and multiple years (2015-2018) of the NBA finals including one heck of a championship parade (Go CAVs!).
Cleveland has always been a tale of two cities. On one hand, it has been touted in the same company as Madagascar; Dublin (Ireland), and Oahu, (Hawaii) as one of the top places to visit in 2018 according to National Geographic Traveler. On the other hand, according to a Wall Street report, Cleveland ranks fifth behind Memphis, St Louis, Flint, and Detroit as one of the worst cities to live in. Whether it’s the crime-ridden neighborhoods, the lake effect snows, or the average of 166 days of sun compared to a national average of 205, Cleveland has its drawbacks. Still, there is something to be said about providing hosting rights to cities that invest in their infrastructure and consistently exceed expectations in operational effectiveness while maintaining a Midwestern charm.
In a mecca of cultural vibrancy with a definitive professional sport appeal, Cleveland is fast becoming a landmark city for high-profile sport, entertainment, and political events. On the heels of the 2013 National Senior Games, the 2016 Republican National Convention showcased the city’s ability to mastermind an elaborately coordinated public affair featuring maximum security and exquisite service-oriented hospitality. Whatever the praise or fallout from the firestorm ignited by then President-elect Donald Trump following a politically charged convention, the city of Cleveland triumphed in setting a precedence for event management. Events mean less unemployment and a more robust economy for Cuyahoga County.
Columbus and Cincinnati have their own charm and are prone to much more comfortable weather patterns, but both cities, despite having slightly lower unemployment rates in their respective counties, still fall behind Cleveland in terms of economic development derived through hosting events. Cincinnati has a good professional sport vibe with the Great American Ball Park and Paul Brown stadium serving as homes for the MLB Reds and NFL Bengals. The city hosts a very profitable flying pig marathon and an even more profitable Western and Southern Open Tennis Tournament. Cincinnati is home of one of the newest MLS expansion teams and may even host a future FIFA World Cup game in 2026.
Columbus has the allure of big-time college sports city with the athletic prowess of “The” Ohio State University and hosting rights to many NCAA championships. The city also caters to the Ohio Senior Games every other year (the 2019 Games include eight events for age 50 plus) and to a small pocket of Midwestern NHL fans who were finally rewarded with an All-Star Game in 2015 and an exciting post-season run this past year by the Blue Jackets. Ohio’s capital city of Columbus doesn’t disappoint as a great medium-market sport locale. It is the home of a great minor league baseball franchise, the Jack Nicklaus Muirfield Village Golf Championship, and the MLS Crew with a local fan base that helped retain the team’s roots in Ohio following a threat to relocate in Austin, Texas.
In comparison to Columbus and Cincinnati, Cleveland has three major professional franchises and has knocked it out of the park in terms of generating revenue and landing higher profile sport bids than the other two sport cities. In the spirit of true cooperation, Cleveland’s government officials, non-profit tourism offices, professional sport franchises, and private investors are serious about attracting the biggest and best events it can host. The municipal and private entities working for the city have a formula for success that is unique and proprietary. Only Cleveland can sell the Cleveland experience and if its not good enough to attract a Super Bowl yet, at least it is great enough to attract the NFL’s Draft event. If the 2021 draft is anything close to the 2019 event in Nashville, Cleveland will be on pace to shatter attendance records and solidify its position as a premier Midwestern sport and entertainment destination.
Ohio cities don’t pretend to have the appeal of great large-market sport cities such as Los Angeles (2028 Olympics), Atlanta, Dallas, New York, Chicago, or Boston. Ohio cities aren’t bonding together to seek a future Olympic bid, but they each are forging their own path to attract and operate sport events that drive visitor spending in the area. Even Toledo (home of the Mud Hens) and Akron (Home of the Rubber Ducks and Firestone Country) are doing their darnedest to attract visitors to their cities through fun and engaging sport entertainment. It’s just that Cleveland is doing a little better job than Ohio’s other cities which is great news for Tiffin residents who can easily make the 80 plus mile drive to the northeast corner of the state.
There is no denying that the 2019 MLB All Star Week was a fantastic marquee event for a booming city becoming more and more renowned for its ability to package sport with high energy entertainment that keeps funneling dollars to local businesses, investors, and charity organizations. Stay tuned next month for more interesting sport stories from around the world, around the nation, around the state, and right here in Tiffin.