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Cleveland in the spotlight: NBA All-Star Weekend brings basketball's best to our city

And we're rolling out the red carpet to welcome them.

CLEVELAND — The NBA All-Star festivities begin Thursday and when the weekend is over, more than $100 million new dollars are expected to be pumped into the area.

The spotlight is squarely trained on the city of Cleveland.

Beloved local Chef Rocco Whalen saw the excitement firsthand when NBA All-Star weekend played out in 2019 in Charlotte, where he has a Fahrenheit location.

"It was the busiest weekend I've ever had in my career. And I've had a lot of busy weekends," Whalen told us.

So he is gearing up for the NBA to take over here in Cleveland -- and the stars that come with it.

"It's gonna show the city off well, and the Cavs are the hottest team in the NBA, which makes it a lot easier, even as well as I smile, Evan Mobley, you know, D. Garland, everybody," said Whalen.

NBA ALL-STAR GAME: Everything you need to know from special guests, moments, events and more

All weekend, Chef Rocco will be inside Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse as his locations there and his signature spot in Tremont host private events and special dishes. In this town, he knows the culinary experience will deliver.

"We have great food. I know that 'cause I know the chefs in this town, we have great venues. I know that," he said.

This is basketball's Super Bowl. Unlike the NBA Finals, it's a one-weekend-only event the league plans years in advance.

And on this 75th anniversary of the NBA, Cleveland will put up tens of thousands of visitors and serve as the backdrop for a game seen in 200 countries across the globe.

"We want to make sure -- sure -- the NBA walks away feeling that Cleveland was the best host city they've ever had," said David Gilbert, CEO of Destination Cleveland and Greater Cleveland Sports Commission. "So a lot goes into that. But really feel like we're ready."

Gilbert co-chaired the local organizing committee and says the latest omicron wave made some planning a challenge. But unlike the NFL Draft Cleveland hosted last spring, he says now we've all learned to carry on around the coronavirus.

"People know what it's like to wear a mask at an event, to show their vaccination card, all those things," Gilbert said. "People aren't surprised by it, that you need to show a vaccination card to get in to the event. So that has made it easier. And I think we'll make it easier for people to adapt who are going to all the events."

At the Hilton Cleveland Downtown, the rooms are committed to the NBA, but the buzz is free for everyone to enjoy.

"We've been talking about this and gearing up for this for the past few years," Julia Austin, Director of Sales and Marketing for the Hilton Downtown Cleveland.

It's one of only seven locations -- all hotels -- that the city granted afterhours access to, so its bars can keep serving until 4 a.m. And you never know who you might run into.

"There's the fanfare, the celebrities, the athletes that'll be here, the opportunity just to possibly see somebody walking through a lobby or, you know, arriving, walking down the street," said Austin. 

It's all part of a signature weekend, likely soon to be added to the impressive list of Cleveland's success stories.

"Over the years, we've hosted increasingly larger events and done them really successfully. And that's how we continue to get more," said Gilbert.

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