LeBron James’ first game back with the Cavaliers ended in failure Thursday, but not for Cleveland’s economy. Local businesses expected to receive a major boost from “King James’” homecoming, and the Cavaliers’ exorbitant ticket and jersey sales indicate that the financial boon won't be going away anytime soon.
“LeBron is a one-man economic stimulus package. It’s going to benefit everybody,” Nick Kostis, owner of Pickwick and Frolic Restaurant, told Newsday. Kostis expects an additional $150,000 in revenue this year as a result of James’ return.
A sellout crowd of 20,562 packed into Quicken Loans Arena to witness the Cavaliers’ 95-90 loss to the New York Knicks, with thousands more standing outside the building just to be in the vicinity of Cleveland’s prodigal son. All those fans had to go somewhere to eat and drink, which led to the first of what is expected to be many big nights for Cuyahoga County.
Brett Murphy, who manages Gateway Bar and Grill just steps away from Quicken Loans Arena, expects business to jump from about 50 customers on an average night to upward of 500 before Cavaliers games. Gateway’s staff started to prepare as soon as James signed. “It actually started the day we found out he was coming back,” he told the Cleveland Plain Dealer. “We found out when the game was and started preparing from there.”
The boost to Cleveland’s bars and restaurants is just one aspect of James’ projected financial impact. Cuyahoga County officials project that increased spending at local businesses and through ticket sales will add $50 million to the area’s economy, CNBC reports. Some economists assert that the number is closer to $500 million.
Even before the 2014-15 NBA season, the demand for tickets to see James play was so high that Cavaliers officials were forced to institute the NBA’s first-ever monthly lottery system for single-game ticket sales. Season tickets sold out in July. The average ticket price for a Cavaliers home game this season is $338 on the secondary market, up 224 percent from last season, according to TiqIQ. The most expensive available tickets to Thursday night’s game sold for more than $10,000, ESPN notes.
Cavaliers merchandise sales have experienced a similar bump. Cleveland is the NBA’s top-selling team, with jersey sales up 700 percent from this time last season, according to online retailer Fanatics.
If this is the reaction to James’ first game back in the Cavaliers’ blue-and-gold, just wait until playoff tickets go on sale.