NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - The estimated economic impact from the NBA All-Star Weekend tops $500 million, but city leaders believe the impact reaches beyond that as the city looks to bid on more events in an ever-changing market.
In Charlotte, NC this weekend, the city was business as usual, but that could have been different if it wasn't for the state's controversial bathroom bill.
The social issue helped New Orleans land the All-Star game on short notice, partly because of the expertise the Crescent City has as a host, but also because of its inclusiveness where the NBA felt Charlotte missed the rim.
"This city is a city that believes in diversity and inclusion and we think that not only is that the right value, but it create jobs and it creates a wonderful place to live," Mayor Mitch Landrieu said. "I don't know how to demonstrate that more than by showing people if you can't get that after watching this weekend in New Orleans then I don't think you're ever going to get it."
"We were the first phone call that the commissioner made after they decided to move the game," said Jay Cicero, president of the Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation.
Cicero noted that the ability to showcase New Orleans on a world stage is invaluable as eyes across the globe get a glimpse of the city and culture residents might take for granted.
"It was an opportunity to show off New Orleans in a way that we never have before. When you add in the broadcast component and the exposure component for this event, it's off the charts," Cicero said.
City leaders know the jam-packed weekend will spread as visitors travel home.
"I like the fact that it's like a melting pot. You got a lot of different people, different types of backgrounds and stuff like that which is pretty cool," said Robert Mendoza, who was visiting from California with friends.
"It's real. People are real, people are friendly, and it's actually, being from California, it's way more diverse than I thought it would be," said Rodney Block, who was visiting from California.
In fact, some visitors said if the All-Star Game was anywhere else, they'd likely stay on the bench.
"Probably unlikely, I mean Charlotte is a long way, it doesn't offer the same sort of attractions as New Orleans does," said Monty Simus, who was visiting from Las Vegas with his son. "You know, we had a chance to combine both sports with culture and some history and some great food.
"Yeah everything is right here," said Doug Fife who, along with his son, was visiting from Las Vegas. "It's really great, events are good, a lot of things to see, and it's all right here in the city."
The city's prowess at host the world's biggest events aside, Cicero knows it's New Orleans' inclusiveness that's helped the Big Easy attract more big name events, including just recently the 2022 NCAA Men's Final Four.
"Without New Orleans having an inclusive environment then we would not have been able to land that event. So it's becoming increasingly important for cities to have inclusive environments, as well as experience in all the things it takes to host, to even be asked to bid on a major event," Cicero said.
Cicero said the Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation will bid next on the ESPN X-Games and hopes to be included in the next round of bids for the Super Bowl.