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All-Star Game's economic impact estimated at $60 million

It has not been business as usual for many metro-east hotels and restaurants with the Major League Baseball All-Star Game and events leading up to it just across the river in downtown St. Louis.

The St. Louis Regional Chamber & Growth Association estimated the total impact for the bi-state region will be approximately $60 million. An estimated 230,000 people attend the All-Star events, which included All-Star FanFest, the home run derby, and the free charity concert held under the Arch.

According to the Tourism Bureau of Southwestern Illinois, most metro-east hotels witnessed a jump in reservations Monday and Tuesday night, but executive director Jo Kathmann said this usually whenever a big event like this comes to St. Louis, hotels downtown get overbooked and customers usually spill over into metro-east for accommodations.

"They're seeing a slight increase," Kathmann said of the metro-east hotels.

Financial analyst Juli Niemann said many hotels and restaurants on both sides of the river benefited from the national spotlight.

"Overall, it really started to pick up on Monday," said Niemann, an analyst for Smith Moore in Clayton, Mo.

"The national coverage is really a nice highlight," as it shows St. Louis is a good destination for tourists, she said.

However, some hotels on the Illinois side did not think they got much All-Star business in the days leading up to the game Tuesday. John Legens, general manager of the Drury Inn in Collinsville, had expected to have more rooms booked last weekend than he did since his hotel is just 12 miles from Busch Stadium.

"For the most part, we expected going into this, as soon as it was announced back last year, we expected it to be busy here starting Saturday," Legens said. "However, because of the economy, it was a lot slower than we hoped."

In Fairview Heights, Ramada Inn General Manager Rhonda Gerstner said she has had guests who attended All-Star Game events, but she also was expecting more business.

"I though it would more," Gerstner said. "It's just that Fairview Heights, O'Fallon and Shiloh have too many hotels."

But other local hotels reported that business was never better than these past few days. Guest services employee Gary Luster said rooms at the Hampton Inn in Fairview Heights were booked two months ago.

Next door at the Fairfield Inn, front desk worker Paula Bivins said the All-Star Game also has helped sell out rooms.

"We were booked for the last four nights," Bivins said Tuesday.

All-Star Game fans also went to the Casino Queen, where reservations were up.

"We've seen a definite increase in bookings for Monday and Tuesday compared to the same time frame last year," said spokeswoman Julie Hauser.

Stacy Lane, of the Holiday Inn Express in Shiloh, said her hotel was sold out Monday and Tuesday. "And over the weekend, we were pretty close to being sold out both nights."

Legens said the reservations at Drury Inn in Collinsville came, but later than anticipated.

"With the economy, they didn't buy tickets right away or weren't sure they would travel," he said. "As it got closer, they made last-minute arrangements."

Also in Collinsville, Double Tree Hotel General Manager Stacy Cutler said that reservations starting picking up a week ago.

"Within the last two days, we've been in sellout," Cutler said. "It has definitely had a huge impact for us. Unless we have a huge group usually in mid-week, we don't sell out unless there is something in the area or we have a big group. Definitely the All-Star Game is having a big impact for us."

Some metro-east restaurants reported mixed results from the All-Star events.

Denise Sonnenberg, a manager at Fischer's restaurant in Belleville, said fans who were in the area to attend the game and preceding events ate at the Belleville restaurant.

"We've had some really good crowds," Sonnenberg said. "There are a few people who have been here and are lucky enough to have tickets."

But Stacey Knebel could not say the same at Houlihan's in Fairview Heights, which is near a number of hotels in town.

"We've had an average week, nothing crazy," Knenbel said. "We haven't really noticed it affecting us at all."