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The View From Pluto: All-Star Games and NFL Draft Underscore Cleveland's Rebound

Wednesday, May 22, the NFL made it official: Cleveland will be the site of the 2021 NFL Draft.
Wednesday, May 22, the NFL made it official: Cleveland will be the site of the 2021 NFL Draft.

Northeast Ohio will be the center of the pro sports world over the next several years. This July, Progressive Field hosts the Major League Baseball All-Star Game. In 2021, the city has been awarded as the site of the NFL Draft. In 2022, Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse will host the NBA All-Star Game.

WKSU sports commentatorTerry Plutosays getting the three big events shows how Cleveland has rebounded from its bad reputation. 

It was in January, 2017 that Cleveland was announced as the site of the 2019 Major League Baseball All-Star game. In November, 2018, the NBA announced its All-Star game will be played in Cleveland in 2022. And just last week, the city was awarded the hosting of the 2021 NFL Draft. 

Pluto says getting the three big events has significance beyond sports.

"These sports entities all look at Cleveland and see that it's worth it to hold one of their major events here because there's something going on in the city. This would be something that would attract companies to start up here or move from somewhere else. This would be part of something that would attract younger workers because the city is vibrant. It's got a pulse. The river isn't burning." 

1997 MLB and NBA All-Star games

The last time Cleveland hosted an All-Star game was 1997. That year, both the MLB and NBA picked the city for the events.

"In the NBA, it was the 50th anniversary of the league so they had the 50 greatest players of all time. They brought in just about all of them, including Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Wilt Chamberlain. I'm hearing that the NBA is thinking about doing something like that again for the 75th anniversary in 2022," Pluto said. "The baseball All-Star game was neat because Sandy Alomar, Jr. ended up being the MVP." 

Still, Pluto says the events have become much bigger spectacles than they were in 1997. Estimates show Cleveland should expect 250,000 fans to attend the NFL draft and at least $100 million in economic impact.

Nashville, which hosted the event this year, drew an estimated 600,00 people to the event over three days. The NFL and the Nashville Convention & Visitors Corp. estimatedit generated a record $133 million in direct spending, with an economic impact at $224 million.

"It's about hotels and restaurants and making your city a place to be," Pluto said. "It's hard for a certain amount people, maybe if your acclimation was just the last 10 or 15 years, to realize how bad it was in Northeast Ohio 40 or 50 years ago, even 30 years ago."  

Ownership and facilities

Pluto says the selection has a lot to do with team ownership and the venues. 

"For example, [Major League Baseball] feels Paul Dolan and the Indians could have a good All-Star Game. In the NBA, Dan Gilbert is very respected in NBA ownership circles."

"Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse will have renovations finished. And within the last seven years or so, they've been upgrading Progressive Field."

"The fact that the NFL Draft is not just one isolated thing. It comes in the middle of two All-Star games. So that might just tell you that there's more going on here than we even know."

Copyright 2021 WKSU. To see more, visit WKSU.

Amanda Rabinowitz
Amanda Rabinowitz has been a reporter, host and producer at WKSU since 2007. Her days begin before the sun comes up as the local anchor for NPR’s Morning Edition, which airs on WKSU each weekday from 5 a.m. to 9 a.m. In addition to providing local news and weather, she interviews the Plain Dealer’s Terry Pluto for a weekly commentary about Northeast Ohio’s sports scene.