The Economic & Emotional Impact Of LeBron James Returning To Cleveland
Last July, Akron, Ohio native LeBron James made what can easily be classified as a shocking return back to Cleveland, to once again play for his home state Cavaliers. Everybody knows about “The Decision” television show, held in July of 2010, where LeBron announced he was leaving Northeast Ohio to join the Miami Heat. At the time, LeBron was crucified in Ohio, to the point in which it looked impossible for him to ever go back and play basketball in the only state he had ever lived in.
Upon making the surprise announcement last summer, James stated in an SI article titled “I'm Coming Home” that he wanted to make an impact on the area beyond basketball, including helping young kids in the community.
In addition, various sources speculated that James' return could spur $500 million of annual economic activity. So, the questions is, what has LeBron's economic impact really been?
According to Business Insider, James has not reached the $500 million mark yet, but he has absolutely made an impact. Some bars near Quicken Loans Arena have reported a 30 percent to 200 percent increase in game night revenue, with downtown Cleveland hotel room sales up 8.6 percent this year, as compared to a 5.8 percent national increase, during the same period. Coinciding with the above numbers, Quicken Loans Arena's attendance has increased by 3,000 fans per game in 2014-15.
The article notes that some of the surges may be less of an increase in spending and more of a redirecting of individual's entertainment dollars. But, the downtown Cleveland impact of LeBron's return appears to be legitimate.
While the economic impact of LeBron's return is still very much up in the air, the emotional affect on the area could be an even more important factor to consider. Amid Northeast Ohio's long standing and more recent economic and civic challenges, the return to winning basketball (courtesy of a hometown hero, who also happens to be the world's most famous athlete) has galvanized the region behind a common goal.
If LeBron and the Cavs can break Cleveland's 51-year streak of not winning a professional sports title, the feeling of pride and lifting of spirits could do wonders for a place that is often known more for its struggles than successes.