Posted Aug 24 2011 10:09AM
It was a happy day, a proud day. In Orlando, they might even say it was a Magical day.
When the Magic were awarded the 2012 NBA All-Star Weekend, everybody in Orlando was jumping. The decision gave Orlando the midseason showpiece for the first time since Magic Johnson put a lump in everyone's throat in the 1992 game. Mayor Buddy Dyer said in half-jest: "We would like to have it more than once every 20 years."
Uh, how about once every 22 years? Or 23?
Unless the NBA owners and players get real cozy at the negotiating table real soon, there won't be an All-Star Game in Orlando next February. Which means, abracadabra, there goes an estimated $50 million-plus from Central Florida's economy and a decent chunk of change from the league's cash register.
While the players and owners are too busy fighting about money to notice -- too busy to even talk, it seems -- we're watching money vaporize from the league landscape. Already, the loss of summer league play in various cities has meant a loss of revenue. It is nothing on a large scale, but it is a loss nonetheless.
What else will be bulldozed by an extended lockout? Well, already we've seen the loss of jobs at NBA headquarters and among some of the 30 teams. People like concessionaires and ushers who rely on NBA games to earn a living will suffer, starting this fall. The NBA won't generate money through on-demand League Pass. The players will take an endorsement hit unless their contracts were protected in the event of a lockout. And so on. Those nickels and dimes and pink slips add up.
From a financial standpoint, this is lose-lose for everyone should the season be shortened or canceled.
No one needs a full NBA schedule like Orlando, though. That's how much these All-Star weekends mean to the cities that host them. The weekend doesn't exactly have the cache or economic muscle of a Super Bowl -- what does? -- but All-Star weekend is good for both the psyche and the wallet.
It's an invaluable marketing tool for the league, which has the weekend all to itself as the sporting nation takes a break between the Super Bowl and spring training. The players are in full view and therefore the companies they endorse are ready to push their goods through commercials and appearances. The sponsors who do business with the NBA are everywhere, which means the host city serves as a marketing convention for all things basketball.
And finally, the city -- Orlando, in this instance -- absorbs out-of-towners with money to spend and locals who are swept up in the mania.
When the city of Orlando set aside $480 million to build Amway Center, Orlando was virtually guaranteed an All-Star Weekend as a "reward." That's what happens to cities with shiny new palaces. They build them with big future events in mind, in order to recoup a fraction of the cost. The NFL "awarded" a Super Bowl to New Jersey after the Jets and Giants coughed up $1.5 billion for the New Meadowlands Stadium, even though there's no roof to protect the game and fans from the February frost.
When the First Union (now Wells Fargo) Center opened in Philadelphia in 1996, the City of Brotherly Love was immediately given a future All-Star weekend. Unfortunately, the 1999 game never happened, the only time an All-Star Game was canceled due to a lockout. Philly lost an estimated $35 million and an apologetic David Stern said: "We promise to bring the All-Star Weekend back as soon as possible," which, in this case, was in 2002.
Most certainly, in the event of a cancellation, Orlando will get an All-Star Game perhaps as early as 2014, the next available date. (Houston reportedly has dibs on 2013, although there's no official word.) So Orlando will recover those dollars. Eventually.
The bigger issue is the immediate impact, which will be steep. The owners are banking on the players suffering long before they do.
But what about everyone who doesn't sit at the labor table? What about the team workers and the concessionaires and the parking attendants? What about all those businesses in Orlando in February if the All-Star Game goes poof?
As this lockout continues with no real end in sight, who's looking out for them?
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