The first events surrounding the All-Star Weekend start tomorrow and preparations are already in full swing.
Workers on a cherry picker are putting up All-Star images on the Toyota Center downtown.
A nearby restaurant, China Garden on Leeland Street, is already benefiting from the All-Star Weekend. Here’s co-owner Carol Jue Churchill.
“All the workers that are putting in the NBA stuff at Toyota Center, they’ve been through here all day long yesterday and day before, so…”
The restaurant is far from being booked out this weekend, but Churchill says she’s expecting a lot of walk-ins.
Hotel occupancy will also rise significantly starting on Thursday. John Solis with the Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau says the NBA has booked about 5,400 rooms over the long weekend. That does not include fans who are coming on their own to experience the All-Star Game and the events surrounding it.
“We’ll start seeing to pick up — Wednesday we’ll start with official events — but Thursday is when we’ll start to see a spike, and then definitely by Friday noon, downtown’s going to look a lot different.”
The same goes for transportation. Taxis, buses and limousine services will be in high demand and many private services are already committed.
“The minute Houston was awarded the event, the phones were ringing. In Orlando, when the NBA All-Star Game was there last year, it was a good indication of the activity and the need that takes place. A lot of those people communicate and they know what the demand is going to be like and they’re prepared.”
Solis says the number of visitors is hard to predict, but he expects at least 20,000 for the weekend. Most will likely come from places throughout Texas and surrounding states. That might not be as many visitors as, say, during the Offshore Technology Conference, but Solis says the media exposure can’t be neglected.
“When you have a major TV network focusing on your destination for three straight nights, that’s tough to beat.”
The NBA says the All-Star Game on Sunday will be aired live in 215 countries and territories. Other events, including the slam-dunk and three-point contests, the Celebrity Game and the Rising Stars Challenge will be televised nationally on TNT, ESPN and NBA TV.