The double shot of a gymnastics championship and a gymnastics trade show in downtown Hartford is expected to draw total attendance of 40,000, about the same as this spring's collegiate basketball tournament.
The economic benefit of this week's events is forecasted to be as much as $7 million, more than triple the $2.1 million generated by the old Big East women's basketball tournament. Although both have strong fan bases, the gymnastics events draw from a broader geographic area, doubling the number of hotel bookings.
"That really ratchets the dollars up," said Michael Van Parys, president of the Connecticut Convention & Sports Bureau.
Visitor spending also is rippling out farther from Hartford, where the P&G Championships will start Thursday at the XL Center. At the same time, the USA Gymnastics trade show will be taking place several blocks away at the Connecticut Convention Center.
Hotels from downtown Hartford to as far away as near the airport in Windsor Locks have booked more than 6,000 "room nights" for the two gymnastics events, according to statistics from the bureau. Room nights are calculated by multiplying rooms by the number of nights they are booked. That's double the 3,000 room nights during this past season's Big East tournament, Van Parys said.
"That's a lot for Hartford especially at this time of year," Van Parys said. "Landing a piece of business like this is a home run for Hartford, Greater Hartford."
Van Parys said summer is a notoriously slow time for Harford's hospitality industry because business travelers often are on vacation.
At Dish Bar & Grill, private dining coordinator Lynne Russell said the Main Street restaurant saw a good bump in business from the Taste of Hartford two weeks ago, but was in a bit of lull this past week.
"We're biting at the bit to get everyone next week," Russell said. "There's such a hustle and bustle on the street when there's something like this. Everyone is looking for a place to eat."
A dozen or so downtown restaurants are offering 20 percent discounts for patrons who show ticket stubs or trade show registrations.
"We love conventions," said Steve Menschell, general manager of Spotlight Theatres at Front Street. "Hopefully, it will be nice weather, and people will be out walking around."
Menschell said conventions are an important marketing tool for the theater and its restaurant, giving those coming into the city a chance to see the venue. That's equally important for those visiting from outside the area as it is for those who live in the surrounding suburbs, Menschell said.
"Once we can get them here, they love it," Menschell said.
On Pratt Street, within view of the XL Center, Sunberry's Cafe and Catering is looking for the biggest bounce since it opened three months ago.
"More business, that's what I want," said Kay Chong, the cafe's owner.
Chong said mornings have been slow since she opened, with the biggest crowds at lunchtime.
"We still keep opening at 6:30 in the morning," Chong said.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at