Winter Classic canceled: Event would have had $15M estimated impact on Ann Arbor area economy
The news that the Winter Classic won't be coming to Ann Arbor on New Year's Day due to the NHL lockout has local officials and business owners disappointed.
"We're obviously very disappointed," said Michael Harman, general manager of the Dahlmann Campus Inn in downtown Ann Arbor.
Harman said his hotel wasn't quite fully booked up yet, but he had every anticipation that it would be full. Now he plans on refunding any deposits the Campus Inn had received.
"We were looking forward to welcoming the many fans of NHL hockey to Ann Arbor and particularly to the Campus Inn, but other than that I just think it's disappointing that a lockout would interfere with so many fans' enjoyment," he said.
Melanie Maxwell | AnnArbor.com
The NHL officially announced the cancellation of the Winter Classic on Friday on its website. Read the announcement here.
The game would have featured the Detroit Red Wings taking on the Toronto Maple Leafs at Michigan Stadium on Jan. 1.
Mary Kerr, president of the Ann Arbor Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, said the CVB has been estimating anywhere between 3,000 and 6,000 room nights would have been booked at area hotels for the event, a major boost during a particularly slow time of year in Ann Arbor.
She estimated the Winter Classic would have had about an overall $15 million impact on the local economy, and she's hoping that can still happen on Jan. 1, 2014.
"Everyone's really disappointed, but this gives us more lead time to put together a really magnificent event for next year," she said.
Kerr said no decision has been made yet whether a New Year's Eve block party where a portion of Main Street would be closed down the night before the Winter Classic would go forward.
Mayor John Hieftje said he's sure some hotels and restaurants that were counting on extra business from the Jan. 1 hockey game at Michigan Stadium aren't happy. But the Winter Classic isn't an event the city has hosted before, so in that regard he doesn't consider it a huge loss for Ann Arbor.
"I think it was going to be a good event for the city," he added. "Because for one reason, that's a quiet day in the city and I don't think it would have taken much in the way of policing resources. The students would not have been in town and it may have been easier to handle."
Hieftje said he knows many of the local hotels were being booked up, but he said they're often full for New Year's Eve anyway and it would have been just one extra day of business in most cases.
The year's Winter Classic and the companion SiriusXM Hockeytown Winter Festival called for the construction of major outdoor ice rinks at both Comerica Park and the Big House.
Multiple games involving teams from the NHL, NCAA, American Hockey League, Ontario Hockey League, high school and local minor hockey leagues were scheduled, requiring travel and hotel commitments. Beyond the construction of two outdoor rinks, the combined events were preparing to welcome nearly 400,000 guests to Detroit and Ann Arbor over the holiday period.
Spinoff revenue from previous Winter Classics in Boston, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia have been reported to be between $22 million and $36 million.
Many downtown Ann Arbor restaurant owners said they were disappointed by the news of the event's cancellation. Some said they would have opened specially for the Winter Classic visitors on New Year's Day — a time when the dining-out crowd is typically slower.
"It's a huge income loss for (Ann Arbor)," said Maggie Long, general manager and executive chef for the Jolly Pumpkin at 311 S. Main St. "It's unfortunate that we lost the exposure to new people."
Long said the loss of the Winter Classic was more of a loss for Detroit than Ann Arbor. She said she's been doing some research into the impacts of the NHL game in Boston and speculated on the effects of bringing in a new crowd of people from Canada to experience Detroit.
"It's a sad thing for the town," she said.
Jon Tipton, manager of The Ravens Club at 207 S. Main St., said the Winter Classic would have been like having an extra home football game in the middle of the winter — events that have tremendous positive impacts on his business' bottom line.
However, Tipton said the loss of the NHL event wouldn't be completely devastating, as The Ravens Club typically does well during the Restaurant Week that happens each January.
Binod Dhakal, manager of Shalimar at 307 S. Main St., said the loss of potential new customers to his business and the exposure of the downtown district to visitors was sad.
"We were hoping to have good business that day," Dhakal said, noting Shalimar is typically closed on New Year's Day.
Though Dhakal said Shalimar didn't have any big plans for the day, he said there was nothing that could be done about the NHL’s decision and that the business would have to wait until 2014.
AnnArbor.com reporter Amy Biolchini contributed to this report.
Ryan J. Stanton covers government and politics for AnnArbor.com. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 734-623-2529. You also can follow him on Twitter or subscribe to AnnArbor.com's email newsletters.