College of Business Administration Economics Professor Analyzes Economic Impact of Gay Games
The National Senior Games provided a $36 million economic boost to Greater Cleveland last year.
Gay Games 9 should have an even bigger financial impact on Northeast Ohio this year, organizers and economists predict.
Cleveland and Akron are hosting the games, an Olympics-style, international competition which runs from Aug. 9-16.
“The economic impact will be quite noticeable,” said Shawn Rohlin, an economics professor at Kent State University.
He co-led a study on the impact of the Senior Games last year, concluding that the nearly 29,000 athletes, family and friends brought in $36.1 million to the local economy.
The money should be flowing freely for the Gay Games, too, as an estimated 22,000 to 25,000 people — many of those being international visitors — descend on the region.
Thomas Nobbe, executive director of the Gay Games, predicted that the economic impact would be $40 million.
“It’s really hard to capture a specific number,” he said.
But given the similarities with the Senior Games and the in-depth study conducted on that competition, economists aren’t over-reaching with their predictions.
The hotel and restaurant industries were the big winners with the Senior Games and it should be the same for the Gay Games.
“People are staying for a week or two at a time,” Rohlin said. “People need to eat and sleep someplace and have fun someplace. All those things help the local economy.”
“This is great that Northeast Ohio is putting on such large events,” he added.
The Office Bistro/Lounge, which has locations in Akron and Cuyahoga Falls, is one of the sponsors for the Gay Games.
Owner Frank Caetta and manager Anthony Mandala are excited to see the international event come to the area and believe it will help the local restaurant industry.
“It’s basically a once-in-a-lifetime event for this area,” Caetta said. “International exposure. Anything like that that comes to this area, I’m more than happy to sponsor.”
Mandala noted that the competition has been held in cities such as San Francisco, Chicago and Cologne, Germany, and it will be in Paris next.
“You put Cleveland/Akron in there and you put it in an elite class,” he said.
“This is definitely a destination area,” he added about the region. “It’s great to have events like this.”
Hilton Akron/Fairlawn general manager Timothy Winter said his hotel has seen a slight bump in advance bookings thanks to the Gay Games.
Local hotels already enjoy a good summer because of the All-American Soap Box Derby, Pro Football Hall of Fame festivities and the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club.
“Having this in mid-August after those events is very positive for us,” Winter said.
Showcasing the area
The key is bringing in new money to the region, said Candi Clouse, a research associate with the Center for Economic Development at Cleveland State University.
“That’s what we like to see in economic impact — new money coming in,” she said.
But organizers hope that there are benefits for Northeast Ohio that go beyond a short-term financial return.
The Senior Games study found that people left Cleveland with a better impression than they arrived with.
Gregg Mervis, president and chief executive officer of the Akron/Summit County Convention & Visitors Bureau, said the Gay Games are the perfect opportunity to shine a positive light on the region.
Many of the visitors likely have never stepped foot in Northeast Ohio before. Organizers say there will be people here from 48 states and 51 countries.
Perhaps they will learn that events such as the Soap Box Derby and World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational take place here or discover the Cuyahoga Valley National Park and decide to return one day.
“It’s an opportunity for us to showcase and feature all the wonderful aspects as far as entertainment, outdoor recreation, dining and general hospitality we have here in Akron and Summit County,” Mervis said.
He also likes the fact that Akron will be mentioned in the same breath as San Francisco, Chicago, Cologne and Paris.
“You just can’t put a value on that,” Mervis said.