ANCHORAGE (AP) -- Anchorage businesses are banking on the upcoming 2001 Special Olympics World Winter Games to give them a boost following the cancelation of the Fur Rendezvous sled dog races.
Next month's event, the largest held in Alaska, is expected to attract 8,000 visitors from nearly 80 countries and 4,500 volunteers from around the state. That translates into a $20.6 million cash infusion, according to Scott Goldsmith, professor of economics at the University of Alaska Anchorage. Through a ripple effect, the money could translate into $33 million in total sales and a $10 million payroll for Anchorage, Goldsmith projects.
''The total impact will be pretty significant,'' he said.
The Special Olympics have funded a study of the Games' economic impact on Anchorage by Goldsmith and others at UAA's Institute of Social and Economic Research. The report won't be available until spring.
Goldsmith has put together a preliminary fact sheet that shows Anchorage's transportation sector making $1.2 million in sales, $3.7 million for restaurants, and $3.6 million for retail. It also shows 2,000 Anchorage hotel rooms filled for 10 days.
While all that sounds good, other host cities have been disappointed by the economic results, including New Haven, Conn., and Raleigh, N.C., where the Special Olympics World Summer Games took place in 1995 and 1999 respectively.
Anchorage businesses aren't concerned. Restaurants near Kincaid Park, where some competition will take place, are among those positioning themselves to cash in.
Tastee Freez has added menu items geared toward athletes and has beefed up staffing to handle an expected customer rush.
''We've added chicken Caesar salad, ham and turkey subs, nonsugared drinks and sugar-free yogurt for those working on a low-sugar diet. We should be able to meet almost any dietary request,'' said Rich Owens, owner of Tastee Freez since 1994.
Gesine's, a gourmet restaurant in the same strip mall, plans to hand out coupons to spectators at Kincaid to lure them into the elegant eatery. Like Tastee Freez, Gesine's plans to festoon its exterior with an eye-catching banner welcoming the athletes and visitors. The owners will also make the rounds at nearby inns.
''We'll ask the hotels to remind them that we're here and not to send everyone downtown,'' said Gesine Franchetti, who owns the place with her husband, John, a chef.
Most businesses on Fourth Avenue and elsewhere downtown are anticipating increased sales during the eight days the Games take place.
''If it's a lot busier, we'll change our ordering,'' said George Gee, co-owner of Side St. Espresso. ''I'll start brewing coffee at 4 a.m. instead of 6.''
Others shrugged their shoulders at the notion of thousands of visitors descending on Anchorage.
''I depend on Alaskans. They keep me alive,'' said Frank Hout, who owns 515 Cocktail Lounge, a Fourth Avenue bar heavily trafficked by locals.
Ben Stevens, president and chief executive of the 2001 Special Olympics World Winter Games Alaska, said it's the awareness, the good will and the positive relationships that emerge from the event that's important.
''We never really did it for an economic benefit of the community. That's not the reason for it,'' Stevens said. But he has no doubt Anchorage businesses will benefit anyway.
''If this event wasn't here, the hotels would be empty,'' Stevens said. And Anchorage has already received bricks-and-mortar benefits, such as the new ski chalet at Kincaid Park.
Perhaps even more important than the money the Special Olympics will bring is the international attention Anchorage will garner as a result, some of the city's promoters say. Journalists from more than 20 countries will cover the event, said Kathy Day, Special Olympics spokeswoman.
''You literally can't buy this type of exposure,'' said Jeff Pokorny, research director for the Anchorage Economic Development Corp.
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