Major NCAA event cancels on Cleveland citing not enough hotels close together downtown

Cleveland needs one more big hotel

CLEVELAND - There are 3,700 hotel rooms in greater downtown Cleveland and there will be 4,500 hotel rooms when several hotels are renovated or built in the next two years.

But in order to host some large national events, that's apparently still not enough hotel rooms.

"Cleveland is really elevating itself as a visitor destination," said David Gilbert from the Cleveland Sports Commission.

Under his leadership, the Cleveland Sports Commission has thrived, hosting numerous national college sporting events. So imagine Gilbert's disappointment when the NCAA canceled its Division II indoor winter sports festival this coming March after committing to Cleveland

Here's the problem: the Cleveland area has thousands of hotel rooms from Westlake to Strongsville, to downtown Cleveland to Beachwood. But the NCAA wants its 1,200 athletes, plus hundreds of coaches, to stay in no more than five hotels within walking distance of each other downtown.

Since Cleveland cannot offer an Olympic village-style set up for college athletes, the NCAA moved the track and field, swimming and diving championships to Birmingham, Alabama.

Cleveland could become a victim of its own success. The new Medical Mart, convention center and casino will draw even more visitors. But where do they all check-in, especially when the city hosts national events?

There are several large hotels downtown, but Gilbert said what Cleveland really needs is one more new, 500-room hotel with plenty of meeting space.

There is some good news.

The Mariott is being renovated into a luxury Westin Hotel. Aloft Hotel is going into the flats. A Kimpton Hotel is planned at East 9th and Euclid Avenue, but construction hasn't started.

"We certainly could use more hotel inventory, particularly another large, convention-size hotel downtown," Gilbert said.

Gilbert said the NCAA, which hosted its women's Final Four in Cleveland several years ago, said they loved Cleveland, but won't come back until there's more hotel rooms.

Gilbert said Cleveland is the only major city without a 500-room hotel. The Renaissance Hotel comes close with 490 rooms.

Cleveland is hosting 1,300 athletes for the National Senior Games next year for people 50 years old and over. Gilbert said there are 20,000 hotel rooms in Cuyahoga County and many more in northeast Ohio that can easily host that event.

But transportation and keeping college athletes close together is more of a challenge.

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