Does Lebron James’ Return Have an Effect on Cleveland’s Economy?


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There are some skeptics throughout sports that believe a professional sports franchise has little effect on a city’s economy. I disagree. Look at all of the businesses that are launched when a new stadium or arena is built. However, during Lebron’s first tenure with the NBA ‘s Cleveland Cavaliers, the changes downtown Cleveland saw was immaculate.

In 2005, downtown Cleveland’s residential area grew by more than 30%. The East 4th Street area has showed gradual growth and development with a slew of bars, restaurants and shopping. When comparing ticket sales during Lebron’s last season in Cleveland with this past season, there was a $16 million dollar difference in ticket sales. Additionally, the day Lebron announced that he was returning to Cleveland, the Cavaliers sold out every single season ticket available. The average price of a ticket for a Cavaliers home game this season is upwards of $400 if you’re buying on a secondary ticket website like Stubhub.

According to a professor at a Cleveland area University, the return of Lebron James adds between $163-$426 million to Cleveland’s economy. You must factor in the additional playoff games the Cavs will play that they didn’t have in recent seasons. Factor in the hotel visits from fans from out of town and the money they spend at bars and restaurants. Let’s consider all of the Lebron jerseys and memorabilia that will be purchased from area sporting good outlets.

A local Cuyahoga County Executive, on the other hand, anticipates the Lebron Effect to be much more modest. The county’s debt inherited from the construction of Quicken Loans Arena in the 90s hasn’t been paid off yet. In fact, neither has First Energy Stadium’s debt (home of the NFL’s Cleveland Browns). And he anticipates that most of the money will stay in downtown Cleveland and won’t trickle out to the city’s other areas.

More than anyone, I would love to see Lebron bring an NBA title back to Cleveland. It would be great for the city; they deserve it, Dan Gilbert deserves it and Lebron deserves it. The pursuit of an NBA title was the only reason he left Cleveland for Miami to begin with. But he turns 30 years old this December and the city only has a few more years to capitalize on his presence.

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