LeBron departure will likely drag on downtown Cleveland economy

Updated: Jul. 2, 2018 at 5:46 PM EDT
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CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - It's no surprise most downtown bar and restaurant owners are not happy with LeBron's decision.

Many believe his departure means a drop in business next fall when the NBA season begins.

"I was looking forward to him retiring in Cleveland," said one Cavs fan.

"It's a bummer that he's leaving. He Brought so much to the city," said another.

LeBron's departure isn't just taking a toll on fans, but it will also be taking a toll on restaurants in the downtown area, according to business owners themselves.

"I think the impact is gonna be those extra games and being in the finals. Yeah, we're not gonna see that for a little while," said John Lane, co-owner of the Winking Lizard Tavern.

He's seen attendance fluctuate depending on if LeBron's on the court or not.

Although that number is expected to decrease, Lane is still confident Clevelanders will support King James.

"I think people are gonna come out and watch him even when he's playing in L.A. ... I think there's a lot different with Clevelander's this time around than it is the next time around," said Lane.

Other had different takes on the loss of James.

"When LeBron's gone, it's half the attendance. People don't care as much. People aren't out and they aren't willing to go get drinks," said Cavs fan, Vernon Thompson.

Thompson was once a traditional season ticket holder, now he says he couldn't care less.

"Before Lebron came, I couldn't give my tickets away. It's just not worth the investment right now," said Thompson.

Yet Lane remains optimistic.

"Hopefully Dan Gilbert and his team brings another great team along and we don't have to sit here and talk about the economic impact. It's gonna be a positive one," he said.

On Monday, Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson was optimistic about downtown's future:

"Downtown Cleveland is home to over 15,000 residents - with more than 5,000 new residents since 2010 - and continues to grow. The City along with its private and public sector partners have invested in the redevelopment of Public Square, lakefront beaches and revitalized Lake Erie and Cuyahoga River waterfronts. More than $1 billion in private sector funding has been invested in the downtown neighborhood this decade, funding development from the opening of small restaurants to renovation and construction of large office and residential complexes with more to come.

The downtown neighborhood will continue to be the epicenter for entertainment in Northeast Ohio. LeBron's achievements on and off the court will leave behind a remarkable legacy in the City of Cleveland and I thank him for all that he has done. While LeBron James will be missed, Downtown Cleveland will continue to thrive as a world-class place to visit; live; eat; work; play and do business."

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