Ravens playoff fete to bring Baltimore $10 million windfall

Hotels, restaurants, bars and attractions to benefit

`It's like an extra Christmas'

December 30, 2003|By June Arney | June Arney,SUN STAFF

The NFL playoff season hasn't begun, but Baltimore is already a winner.

On Saturday, when the Ravens square off in a first-round home game against the Tennessee Titans, the football event and surrounding hoopla are expected to bring an economic windfall of at least $10 million.

"It's like an extra Christmas," said Dave Rather, co-owner of Mother's Federal Hill Grille. "Our Ravens days are the best ones of the year. To get an extra one, with the energy of a playoff, is very, very good. It will be one of our ... biggest days all year."

Across the region, hoteliers are expecting to watch their rooms fill up overnight, restaurateurs are ordering extra food and tourism officials are salivating over the anticipated buzz about Baltimore.

Dennis M. Mannion, vice president for the Ravens, estimates the playoff game will represent at least a $10 million economic boost to the Baltimore area.

Online sales of Ravens merchandise are expected to increase by $100,000, he said.

The additional crowds riding light rail, dining in area restaurants and staying in hotels are all part of the broader economic development picture, said Michael Evitts, a spokesman for Downtown Partnership.

"These are all returns on the taxpayers' initial investment to build the stadium," he said. "The value of a professional sports franchise, particularly if they make a playoff, is immeasurable in publicity alone."

At Baltimore's Renaissance Harborplace Hotel, John L. Daw, the general manager, saw an overnight rise in occupancy of 15 percent after Baltimore made the playoffs on Sunday.

"And it's still going up," he said yesterday afternoon. "I think being as close to Tennessee as we are, people are looking to take a Southwest flight and coming in."

Daw estimates the economic impact of the playoffs at somewhere between a typical Ravens game and the running of the Preakness Stakes.

At his hotel, New Year's Eve is 80 percent to 90 percent booked, which is typical, Daw said. The playoff game simply extends the holiday.

"Because you've got a 4:30 game, people are not leaving on Saturday," Daw said. "They're staying both Friday and Saturday nights. That's outstanding for the restaurants, for the hotels, for the cabdrivers, for anyone involved in the hospitality business. People are going to come and enjoy Baltimore."

Mother's in Federal Hill - known for its tailgate parties, called purple patios - expects to see a 40 percent spike in business Thursday through Sunday, said Marc Boyd, its general manager.

Boyd, who was at work yesterday on his day off, was busy ordering hundreds of additional cases of beer and about 400 pounds more meat to accommodate the expected crowds.

"It's awesome for us," he said. "It's like the restaurant itself is going to the playoffs. It's that big a deal for us."

Champps Restaurant & Grill in Columbia is expecting standing room only, with patrons arriving two hours early to be sure to get a good seat in front of the big screen for the game. On Saturday, the Ravens game can be viewed on two walls of televisions, 6 feet by 9 feet and 8 feet by 8 feet, he said.

"We realized our best Sunday ever" this past weekend, said Rocky Brown, general manager. "I would expect that [this] Saturday we should break another record."

Brown said he expects it will take a quarter-ton of chicken wings to get through the weekend at his sports bar, which has a capacity of 385 people. Usually, Champps can get through the weekend on 300 pounds, he said.

The state of Maryland is expected to glean $250,000 in taxes from the anticipated $3.1 million in ticket sales, said David A. Raith, fiscal director for the Maryland Stadium Authority. The city's tax take would be $62,000, he said.

Saturday's 4:30 p.m. game against Tennessee will offer the city and region a national stage, with far more cachet than the typical Ravens game, which is televised locally and in the opposing team's area.

Late yesterday, Mayor Martin O'Malley sent messages to community leaders announcing that City Hall would hang a Ravens banner and be bathed in Ravens colors, and suggesting that others follow suit.

"There's going to be so much hype surrounding this playoff," said Nancy Hinds, a spokeswoman for the Baltimore Area Convention and Visitors Association. "It's going to be Baltimore, Baltimore, Baltimore. It raises the city's visibility in cities all over the country that we couldn't afford to reach with advertising.

"When they go into a commercial or out of a commercial, they'll show beauty shots of Baltimore," Hinds said. "A city can't ask for anything more. People who maybe never thought of Baltimore may now consider Baltimore for their next trip. If we win on Saturday and keep on going, the possibilities are endless for what we can do to promote the city on a national stage."

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