Unless you've been living under a rock, you know the sports world and just about everyone else is buzzing about LeBron James -- the two-time NBA Most Valuable Player, who decided to part ways with the Cleveland Cavaliers and sign with the Miami Heat. Fans in Cleveland, where "King James" has spent his entire career since he took the NBA by storm in 2003, are understandably upset. But so too are some Cleveland business owners, who are worried about a drop in revenue now that the LeBron show is leaving town. James has brought increased season-ticket and merchandise sales, not to mention, increased national exposure for the Cavaliers franchise and more business for local restaurants, hotels and bars on game days. Business owners point to a noticeable uptick in revenue since the 25-year-old burst on the scene.
Though the Cavaliers made an offer to keep the Northern Ohio native on their team, the Heat emerged as James' top pick. James announced his decision during a primetime special on ESPN. AOL Small Business asked Cleveland-area businesses for their take on what a LeBron-less city would mean for their bottom lines. Call it entrepreneurial optimism, but it appears the show just may go on -- even without the league's best player. George Iannacone, regional director of operations at Hilton Garden Inn Cleveland Downtown "When the Cavs are in town and during playoffs, because of the location of the Hilton Garden Inn, we definitely see increased occupancy.
Before James joined the team, there wasn't a lot of attendance and we didn't feel it as much. But now we have a lot of corporate businesspeople who make their plans around when the Cavs are in town, so they can see the team and see James, so it absolutely affects our business. I mean, not to a point where it's going to break our business, but it will definitely affect our occupancy." Jon Goerig, operations manager at Flannery's Pub "The fans are pretty loyal to the Cavs, and I dare say that if he went somewhere else, the fans would still come down. I think business would be pretty stable."
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Jonathan Seeholezer, partner at The Greenhouse Tavern "We're a new restaurant -- we've been here a little bit over a year now. We've definitely reaped a lot of benefits from the Cavs, but the city as a whole has grown on its own as well. So it's hard for me to really say. Yes, we get a ton of business when LeBron plays around here, so it is going to hurt things, but I don't think it's the end of the city by any means." Kathi Maxwell, owner of Sports Clips Haircuts "We are a hair-cutting franchise. Obviously with the name "Sports Clips" we're all about sports. We thought Cleveland would be a perfect opportunity because it is such a strong sports town, or so we had hoped. The first thing that I did is I went in to
replace our LeBron memorabilia . And I just went to the sporting goods store and they really didn't have any memorabilia other than Ohio State or LeBron James. Well, obviously I'm not going to purchase anything. I'm going to have a tough time finding anything to take up the space on our walls. But it's probably going to cost us a couple hundred dollars to replace the memorabilia and we want to take it down as quickly as possible because I think the general feeling in this area is that he let people down. "I wish him the best, but we're just going to throw away the Lebron James memorabilia , probably like $400 worth. People are disappointed and they're upset because they've always supported him, even when they took a chance and recruited him straight from high school. They basically watched him grow into a young man and a better athlete." Maura Zitney, manager of Harry Buffalo "It might affect business a little bit, but people are still gonna go to the Cavs games. And that's not the only event that we have in downtown Cleveland. There's a million things going on. There's bands, there's concerts, there's business still going on. We're the closest restaurant to the Q, so we get most business for the Cavaliers, but it's still busy for all of the other teams' games as well. I know that we did get a lot of people from out of town because it was LeBron, so I don't think we'll get that as much, but I think the local fans will pretty much keep supporting us."