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Cleveland: Tall Ships Festival to reel in big money

5:48 PM, Jul 3, 2013   |    comments
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CLEVELAND -- The Tall Ships have sailed into Cleveland before, drawing visitors from all around the region.

The last visit was in 2010.

But the stakes are a bit higher for this year's festival. For many visitors, it will be the first time they've seen the new, more vibrant Cleveland downtown.

Mark Vadaj is a private boater who has been part of a maritime welcoming committee for the ships before and is again this year.

"It's a phenomenal event...It's as big as a playoff game or a large convention," he said.

Many Great Lakes cities would love to host this event.

Tall Ships spokesperson Patti Lock said, "It requires a lot of community involvement. Cleveland's a great town to work in."

The Rotary Club and Port of Cleveland are primary co-sponsors that reeled this in.

It's the first U.S. event on the ships stateside tour.

The event requires about $1 million of community subsidy to stage.

"There's a kind of magic, a history...If we hadn't stepped forward, they might have passed us by and found another city to go to," said Rotary spokesman Edward Thomas.

It's estimated the weekend should draw more than 100,000 visitors and have an economic impact of $48 million.

Lock said, "That's heads in beds. That's day trippers. That's parking. That's restaurants and all that good stuff."

Port CEO Will Friedman sees a longer term value than just one weekend of tourist spending.

The event's being staged on the lakefront area the city has begun to seek economic development for.

Friedman says the crowds and activity could give business people and investors ideas.

"Hopefully, we will have permanent redevelopment here and we'll have ships moored and make this a tourist destination," said Friedman.

The Port also has a levy on the ballot and the event should cultivate community good will as visitors get an up-close look at the Port and its surroundings.

And the Festival is the first mega-event of a busy tourism summer in Cleveland.

Positively Cleveland's April Ingle said, "We're anticipating a record-breaking summer with the Tall Ships and the Senior Games. These are taking Cleveland to another level."

It should be a fun and  profitable shipshape weekend. That is, if the weather's on board.

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