Columbus looking for economic boost as it prepares to host its 1st NHL All-Star game

Economic Indicators Associated Press

The city is hoping for both a short-term and long-term economic boost from the upcoming 2015 NHL All-Star weekend.

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An estimated 140,000 people, including up to 10,000 out-of-towners, are expected to take part in several events connected to the festivities in the Arena District development near downtown.

Visitors are expected to spend about $12 million during the events this weekend, the Columbus Dispatch reported Wednesday (http://bit.ly/1GuEwTA ).

"We're going to be the first city to take the All-Star game to the next level, almost like a Super Bowl experience, said Bruce Wimbish, a spokesman for the Greater Columbus Sports Commission.

The city hopes a longer-term payoff will come in the form of media exposure for the city, with about 400 reporters expected to cover the events, including the All-Star hockey game. That has an expected impact of about $50 million, according to the commission.

When local residents attend such an event, they're basically spending money in one part of town over another, meaning no net gain, said Columbus economist Howard Fleeter. As a result, the more spending from out-of-town visitors, the better for the local economy, Fleeter said.

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There is also a benefit to bringing central Ohio residents downtown if they haven't been there in a while, he added.

Activities pegged to the event include a temporary outdoor skating rink and a 35-foot slide. Nearby restaurants are also expected to be packed.

In addition to attracting the attention of fans, the city is handing out about 150 gift bags of Columbus food items and other local products, including Jeni's ice cream, to about 150 NHL players, owners and executives.

The long-term boost is what happened in Raleigh, North Carolina, after it hosted the 2011 NHL All-Star weekend, said Scott Dupree, executive director of the Greater Raleigh Sports Alliance.

"It was a real catalyst for opening the door for a lot of other events coming to Raleigh," Dupree said.

Columbus is also one of three finalists for the 2016 Democratic National Convention. It's also hosting the NCAA women's Final Four in 2018.

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Information from: The Columbus Dispatch, http://www.dispatch.com