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As ballparks open, local business benefit

Iowa CubsBesides teams playing in ballparks that have been closed for roughly 600 days, the biggest beneficiaries for the return of baseball are the businesses built to attract game-day traffic.

A big selling point for many cities when it comes to downtown ballparks is the ability to benefit area businesses in the entertainment world, such as bars and restaurants. In many cities you have a whole ecosystem based on game-day traffic, whether it’s the sports-apparel businesses near Yankee Stadium or bars and restaurants like Murphy’s Landing next to Wrigley Field. Those business suffered mightily during 2020’s baseball COVID shutdown.

But with baseball back, even at reduced capacities, those businesses are seeing some light at the end of the tunnel. Take the case of businesses near Principal Park, home of the Iowa Cubs (Triple-A East). Over the last decade bars and restaurants have popped up close to the ballpark, as the population in downtown Des Moines has almost doubled. Those businesses are anticipating baseball traffic returning as capacities expand and fans feel comfortable hanging out near the ballpark:

“It was pretty tough,” said Zack McCuen, manager of nearby breakfast restaurant Mullets. “Those Cubs games really do help us. It took a lot of business away from our nights. We had to lay off some people. You had to close at nights and just cater to what we know is going to make us money.”…

“Not having the Cubs made a big impact,” said Laura Cateron, assistant bar manager of 300 Craft & Rooftop, which features a patio that overlooked an empty ballpark all last summer. “It’s a big part of our business. We lost a lot of our older crowd. I think this year will be better, because everybody’s ready for sports.”…

“We’ve seen a big resurgence and change in the neighborhood in the last 10 years,” said Cubs president and GM Sam Bernabe. “There were probably, at best, 1,000 people living in downtown Des Moines 10 years ago. Now, there’s over 20,000 people. Soon, there will be as many as 30,000 people within a five-minute walk of the ballpark. We feel like we’ve been part of that for a long time.”

To be clear: local economies built on ballpark traffic aren’t close to being out of the woods. This year will continue to be a struggle as we all transition to normalcy.

RELATED STORIES: More returns to normalcy in baseball world; Restrictions loosening, with capacities rising in baseball

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