Two years ago, Charlotte, North Carolina was supposed to host the NBA All-Star Game.
The NBA suddenly switched the location to New Orleans, though, as a result of protests from a controversial legislative bill in North Carolina that restricted bathroom usage. Now, two years later, Charlotte is expecting more than $100 million in economic impact from this season’s All-Star Game, which is scheduled for this weekend.
“It’s been a long road,” said Laura White, director of communications at the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority. “It’s been five years in the making and we’re excited to see it culminate finally.”
The CRVA CEO Tom Murray and Charlotte Hornets President Fred Whitfield co-chaired the executive planning committee for the All-Star Game.
Whitfield was a season-ticket holder during the original Hornets franchise and remembers the last time the city hosted an All-Star Game, in 1991. The Eastern Conference All-Star Game includes Hornets guard Kemba Walker as a starter.
“Our city has experienced tremendous growth,” Whitfield said. “The game of basketball and the NBA has truly become a global game and expanded from a two-day event to a weeklong event.”
The economic impact estimates come in part from the results of New Orleans’ 2017 game, along with Orlando. White said the organization prefers not to release projections and instead favors the concrete numbers following an event, but with the two similar cities in the Southeast, there were solid, comparable numbers to work with.
SportsEconomics and Strategic Marketing Services found the 2012 All-Star game in Orlando resulted in a $95 million economic impact for Orange County. A study by LSU Economics & Policy Research Group found an $82.7 million impact for the 2017 New Orleans game, including $44.9 million in spending.
Last year’s All-Star Game in Los Angeles was projected to produce $116 million in economic impact.
The event will likely be the most impactful sporting event ever in Charlotte, and up there with its largest event — the 2012 Democratic National Convention, which generated an economic impact of $164 million.
White said the CRVA also defers to the hosting organization to project attendance, which the NBA is citing as upwards of 150,000 for the weekend. No matter the number of tourists coming to Charlotte for the game, both the CRVA’s Murray and Charlotte Mayor Vy Lyles said they hope the visitors experience true Southern hospitality.
“From day one of our planning, we’ve always wanted to ensure the All-Star Game felt the sense of Charlotte’s hospitality from the second it arrives,” Murray said.
While Charlotte hosts more than 40 Hornets games every season, White said the All-Star Game provides a larger set of challenges, in large part because so few tickets end up for sale. With that in mind, she pointed to all the ancillary events across the city, ranging from the extra celebrity games to the sponsorship activations to the restaurant and nightlife in Charlotte’s EpiCentre.
“It’s such a different animal,” White said. “We’ll feel it pretty wide.”
In terms of sponsorship activations, CRVA representatives are particularly enthused about Jordan’s takeover of the Mint Museum’s large gift shop. There are more than 160 events across the city.
One of the three factors considered when contemplating hosting major events — along with economic impact and media impressions — is supporting the hospitality industry. One in every nine jobs is in the hospitality industry, the fourth largest in Charlotte.
Murray was particularly adamant about the value of the media impressions, saying it will generate more than the organization could ever afford with traditional marketing. He cited 22 million TV viewers and more than a billion social media mentions, which helps raise the city’s profile for tourism and economic development for future years.
Mayor Lyles agreed.
“Fans from more than 200 countries will be tuning in to the kings of the NBA playing in Charlotte,” she said. “They’ll see our skyline lit red, blue and white because the NBA is putting us again on the center stage in a global sense.”