When the Major League Baseball All-Star Game takes place at Progressive Field on July 9, it will be the culmination of years of work by MLB and the Cleveland Indians organization.
However, according to Dennis Lehman, executive vice president of business for the Indians, the All-Star Game is mostly MLB’s show and Cleveland is simply the gracious host.
“These jewel events (postseason games and the All-Star Game) are property of Major League Baseball,” Lehman said. “Probably more so (with) the All-Star Game, much more MLB involvement because it has a long run. They put together the game plan for each team and you sort of follow it, chapter and verse. Essentially, it’s maybe much more involved because of their input. And the postseason kind of moves and has its own complexity; you know you’re going to be here. But they really started coming in almost two years ago and started laying out the buildings and where they wanted to put things and so forth. They’ve been here quite a bit and they’re very active.”
Lehman, a Chagrin Falls resident who attends Suburban Temple-Kol Ami in Beachwood said the responsibility of the Indians staff members then, is to be a liaison to the community for the MLB people and introduce them to the key people in the community.
“Most of our costs are covered by Major League Baseball, at least for the events coming up this week,” Lehman said. “The revenue ... everything flows up through Major League Baseball, unlike postseason. So, ticket sales, food and beverage all go to Major League Baseball.”
He said there isn’t really a direct economic benefit to the team for hosting the game, since MLB gets the profits, but there are some fringe benefits for the team to host the game.
“It’s an opportunity to retain season ticket customers, that’s always an important aspect of it,” Lehman said. “I think it helps our brand, certainly to show our ballpark on the international stage gives our international fanbase a chance to see some of our best players play. But from a standpoint of dollars and cents, it’s a little difficult to quantify.”
He noted the other benefit to the All-Star Game in Cleveland is on the civic side.
“The taxpayers and community business leaders that built all these great facilities, whether it’s a brand-new convention center or some of these newer hotels ... it gives them a chance to fill their spaces up,” he said. “Baseball is probably filling 14,000 hotel room nights and there’s rental car fees and parking fees and certainly the bed tax. Certainly the additional three events (during All-Star week) are guaranteed admissions tax for the city of Cleveland. There’s a significant amount of tax revenue that’s actually counted and not used as a multiplier for the county and the city.”
David Gilbert, president and CEO of Destination Cleveland and the Greater Cleveland Sports Commission, two entities that have been crucial in landing Cleveland events such as the MLB All-Star Game and the upcoming 2021 NFL Draft and the 2022 NBA All-Star Game, said the benefits to these types of events are “multifold.”
“The easiest one to talk about is the economic benefit,” Gilbert said. “In the case of the MLB All-Star Game, based on studies done the last couple of (All-Star) games, we estimate the impact to be around $65 million and that speaks to outside dollars being spent in the Cleveland market.”
He noted that money is not necessarily being spent by attendees of the game, it also includes out-of-town media and staff members and the impact measures pretty much any money coming in from out of town that is being spent in Cleveland around this event. He noted that $65 million is an “extremely large” number for a single event, which the All-Star Game is considered even though there are a number of complementary supplemental events around the game itself.
“The All-Star Game is an event that carries with it significant national attention and international attention,” Gilbert said. “Some of these events, this being one of them, have an out sized importance for a city like Cleveland, one that continues to come from a place of needing to elevate its national narrative.”
He said this game will bring thousands of media members to Cleveland, as well as those attending the game, with an estimated 40,000 people coming in for the event.
“That opportunity to have people see Cleveland with new or fresh eyes is critically important for talent attraction and capital attraction,” Gilbert said. “That’s 40,000 first dates (for Cleveland) and the opportunity to translate them into longer term relationships is really important.”
He said cities don’t get events like all-star games by accident; almost all major events like this are awarded to cities based on some sort of competiton. For events like MLB’s World Series or the NBA Finals, two championship events that had been in Cleveland in recent years, that competition is on the field or court, but for all-star games or the NFL Draft, that completion is won based on work done by organizations like those Gilbert heads. Also, for the All-Star Game, the team and the city have had years to prepare, unlike the Finals or World Series, where teams and the city might have a couple days to prepare.
“Organizations are choosing to be in Cleveland over other cities and it’s something we should be proud of,” said Gilbert, a Moreland Hills resident.
There’s a lot of work to be done for the All-Star Game, more so than for a playoff game, but Lehman said the pre-planning for the game is done and now, his staff is mostly just assisting the contractors and MLB employees. He said they also have a number of volunteers and part-time staff assisting with logistics of the event.
Unfortunately for Lehman and the rest of the Cleveland Indians staff, there isn’t a ton of time to relax once the All-Star Game is over, as the end of the All-Star break means the MLB season will resume, with Cleveland fighting for a potential playoff spot.
“We have a long homestand coming up (after the All-Star Game),” he said. “We’ll be right back in the throes of it, home for two weekends.”