If Mardi Gras seems a little more crowded than usual this year, it’s not your imagination.
Carnival season is on a collision course with big league hoops as New Orleans hosts the 2017 NBA All-Star Weekend Feb. 17-19. It’s the Big Easy’s third time in the past 10 years to host the spectacle.
It’s also a full weekend for basketball fans. The All-Star Celebrity Game, Hall of Fame announcement, Taco Bell Skills Challenge, All-Star Three Point Contest and Verizon Slam Dunk are just some of the events that draw worldwide TV audiences, culminating with the main event – the All-Star Game, which tips off at 7 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 19 at the Smoothie King Center.
Local tourism officials jumped into hyper-gear last fall, when the league suddenly reopened the 2017 All-Star weekend venue. Originally slated for North Carolina, NBA officials decided to change locations because of that state’s controversial legislation affecting transgender people.
And if history is any indication, this year’s Mardi Gras season could go down as one of the busiest ever. It also promises to be a financial windfall. This year’s All-Star Game is expected to generate more than $100 million, said Sam Joffray, senior vice president of communications for the Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation.
A report by the University of New Orleans’ Hospitality Research Center found that the last time New Orleans played host in 2014, All-Star weekend had an overall impact of more than $106 million:
- More than $60 million in direct spending
- Nearly $46 million in secondary spending
- An average $904 spent by individual visitors
- Nearly $5 million in tax revenue
- $3.2 million in tax revenue going local governments
In addition to the revelry of Carnival, the All-Star weekend comes on top of two major conventions and more than a dozen corporate meetings already scheduled in New Orleans. The result could be a perfect storm of sorts.
New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau CEO Stephen Perry, who played a key role in the NBA negotiations, told Nola.com that close to all of the nearly 24,000 available hotel rooms in downtown New Orleans are booked.
Perry says the city has a long rapport with the NBA, and New Orleans is thrilled to welcome back the mid-season event.
“We’re a sports city through and through and have a history of effortlessly hosting iconic events. The festive environment, vibrant culture and authenticity, offers an unparalleled fan experience, making New Orleans the perfect host city and backdrop for the 2017 NBA All-Star Weekend.”
All-Star events will take place at the Smoothie King Center, Champions Square and the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in what Perry described as a makeshift festival complex.
“Since 1988, the Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation and city of New Orleans have hosted hundreds of sporting events that are highly coveted by any host city,” Joffray said. “These sporting events positively impact all aspects of Louisiana’s thriving tourism industry, including an immeasurable public relations value that comes from New Orleans and Mardi Gras, serving as the backdrop for a weekend full of internationally televised broadcasts.”