``If you have even the slightest bit of romanticism left in your relationship, bring your sweetheart to Philadelphia,'' Rendell pleaded at a morning news conference at City Hall.
Pat Croce, the high-charged president of the 76ers who has expressed dismay over the cancellation of the NBA star-studded event, said at City Hall that instead of a ball game the city will have an ``all-star love fest.''
The goal of the marketing effort is to bolster hotel room occupancy Feb. 11 through Feb. 14, a block of days that had been reserved until early last month, when the labor dispute between players and team owners forced the NBA to scrap the game.
Room deals signed between the city's largest hotels and the NBA included lodging for a four-day NBA Jam Session at the Pennsylvania Convention Center that also was canceled. The Jam Session, a backdrop to the All-Star Game, was expected to draw 100,000 people to the Convention Center with interactive displays, sponsors' booths and games.
It was estimated that the weekend's events would have generated about $3 million in hotel revenue, and an additional $6 million in restaurant and related hospitality sales.
In an attempt to make lemonade from these lemons, city tourism officials are packaging the 11-year-old Peco Energy Jazz Festival, which runs Feb. 5-14, with tourism packages for the romantically inclined. To promote it, the Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corp. is spending $50,000 on newspaper advertising, logos, special identification badges for people who participate, and press kits.
Hotel operators say it is probably a lost cause to find enough free-spending, love-struck people in the Philadelphia region to fill their vacant rooms. Anyway, Valentine's Day is typically a one-night event for most couples, so trying to persuade people to stay two or three nights would be difficult, they say.
Tourism officials counter by saying that Feb. 15, the Monday following Valentine's, is Presidents' Day, a legal holiday. So Valentine's could be converted into a three-day weekend this year, they say.
``Whatever the city can do will help,'' said Rick Odorisio, vice president of sales for Wyndham hotels in Philadelphia. ``They are going out of their way.''
Wyndham Franklin Plaza reserved 2,700 room nights for the NBA. Is it possible the hotel will make up those rooms with Valentine's travelers? ``It's not going to happen,'' Odorisio said bluntly.
Stephen Sikking, general manager at the Hawthorn Suites, had similar feelings. ``No way is it going to make up for the rooms we lost from the NBA,'' he said. ``But anything we do is better than nothing.''