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Cleveland previews NBA All-Star weekend

Cleveland hosts the NBA All-Star game next Sunday, Feb. 20, and the city is gearing up for a weekend full of events and visitors.

Hosting the game, says Cavaliers CEO Len Komoroski, provides a window into Cleveland for the world.

“This truly is a worldwide stage,” he said during a virtual press conference Wednesday. “Two hundred fifteen countries and territories will receive this from a broadcast perspective. About two billion people will consume All-Star content when you think about including digital media.”

The weekend kicks off on Friday with NBA Crossover at Public Auditorium.

“It's basically an immersive fan experience that showcases the intersection of basketball, technology, culture, fashion, art, music and entertainment,” Komoroski explained.

All attendees at the All-Star events must show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test.

Controversy over the All-Star weekend started Monday when Mayor Justin Bibb’s administration rejected 80 applications from local restaurants and bars to serve alcohol past the 2 a.m. cutoff. Seven hotels were awarded waivers to serve until 4 a.m.

“The pandemic has had a significant impact on the City and its public safety forces,” Bibb said in a Wednesday statement. “While we want people to enjoy themselves, we must lead by example and put safety first. Not extending the hours is the right decision and in the best interest of the residents of the city of Cleveland and our visitors.”

Hosting a major event like the NBA All-Star game is a balance between safety and economic impact, said Greater Cleveland Sports Commission President David Gilbert.

“There will be tens of thousands of visitors that will be eating breakfast, lunch, dinner and going out before and after games at all of those places,” Gilbert said. “Whether it's until 2:30 or 4:00, they're going to be there.”

Gilbert says there will be 400 to 500 private events that were booked at venues before the waiver process began.

Ohio's Development Services Agency will reimburse the sports commission up to $1.82 million for expenses to put on the weekend’s events.

“Above and beyond, both our city, our county and our private and philanthropic community, we've raised several million dollars,” Gilbert said.

Cleveland previously hosted the All-Star game in 1997, the NBA's 50th season. This year for the NBA's 75th anniversary, the 75 greatest players in the league's history will be honored at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse.

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