NBA All-Star Weekend proves to be economic success for Salt Lake City

The Vivint Arena is prepared for the NBA All-Star Game. Salt Lake City hosted the annual basketball event for the second time the weekend of the 19th. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

The NBA All-Star Game in Salt Lake City the weekend of Feb. 19 brought basketball stars and economic gains to the Salt Lake City community.

Kaitlin Eskelson, President and CEO of Visit Salt Lake, said the results of the economic impact for Salt Lake are expected to be released this month.

“Salt Lake has once again showcased that we are an event-ready city for large-scale events. The close collaboration with all our partners made a complex and multi-tiered event smooth and successful,” Eskelson said.

Gabe Garn is the director of operations for GARN development, a Utah-based real estate development company that operates 15 hotels throughout the state. Over the All-Star Weekend, Garn said many of their hotels in and around Salt Lake saw significant traffic.

“We not only had our downtown Salt Lake hotel and bar completely sold out but also felt the impact in our hotels in Lehi and all the way to Layton,” Garn said. “We were prepared and able to get great rates from visitors at hotels and attached restaurants.”

NBA commissioner Adam Silver’s first NBA All-Star Game was in 1993 when Salt Lake City last hosted the event. In a press conference held Feb. 18 at the Vivint Arena, Silver shared how dramatically both Salt Lake City and the NBA All-Star game have grown over the past 30 years.

“It is interesting to think about the contrast between then and now,” Silver said. “In terms of the magnitude of All-Star, this is the largest in our history. They’re estimating the economic impact in Salt Lake City will be roughly $280 million. That’s an all-time record. We have an all-time record in terms of hotel nights, we’re occupying 33,000 nights in the community.”

Although understanding the full extent of the event’s economic impact on Salt Lake will take time, Andrew Wittenberg, director of communications for the Salt Lake City mayor’s office, said he believes the weekend was an overall success for the city.

“Generally speaking we are certainly optimistic and were very pleased with how everything turned out. It seemed like a smashing success from our end,” Wittenberg said.

Wittenberg also noted the indirect economic impact that is sure to benefit Salt Lake due to the city’s intense media coverage of the event, which can only be measured as time passes.

“If you look at different metrics of having this type of television coverage from an event like this, what it does for indirect economic impact is significant. People see shots of the mountains or downtown Salt Lake on TV and then it plants a seed in their mind to come ski or visit the city where they may have otherwise not done so. Those are a little bit longer arching, indirect impacts,” Wittenberg explained.

Downtown Alliance Executive Director Dee Brewer said while Salt Lake restaurants, bars and retailers obviously financially benefitted from the weekend, the greater value of the NBA All-Star Weekend was the coverage Salt Lake received.

Publicity spending for the All-Star Weekend was around $50 million dollars, which amounted to an incredible amount of exposure for the city, Brewer said.

“We had a national and international audience see this beautiful place and all the interesting things happening here. I think it created opportunities for that audience to visit another day and will definitely have a positive economic impact for Salt Lake and the state of Utah,” Brewer said.

Brewer is hopeful the positive publicity will bring an increase in tourism, business, conventions and other events to Salt Lake.

As the data continues to come in, Utahns can feel confident that their capital city represented the state well during the annual NBA All-Star Weekend. Many Salt Lake businesses, appreciative of the economic boom the event inevitably brings, are hopeful Utah will get the chance to host the event again.

“We would love to welcome the NBA All-Stars back,” Garn said. “And hopefully we can bring more nightlife to impress Shaq and Barkley.”

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