Philadelphia hotels getting a boost from Labor Day weekend concerts

A stage for Made in America under construction near the Art Museum. About 50,000 are expected each day.
A stage for Made in America under construction near the Art Museum. About 50,000 are expected each day. (MICHAEL BRYANT / Staff)
Posted: September 01, 2012

Strong bookings over Labor Day weekend, with the Budweiser Made in America music festival on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway and Bruce Springsteen at Citizens Bank Park, are early indicators that this weekend could turn out to be a windfall for the city's hotels and some restaurants.

There is no room to be had in Center City for Saturday, and only a few rooms left for Sunday. Even hotels in University City, near the airport, and on City Avenue are reporting higher than usual weekend occupancies, thanks to the overlapping concerts.

City and tourism officials say those coming in for one or both events are choosing to make a long weekend of it during what has historically been a weak holiday period for the city's hotels.

This year, nearly 200,000 are expected to converge here for both events.

"With the Made in America concert Saturday and Sunday, and Bruce Springsteen on Sunday and Monday, you will have some overlap. People are staying over," said Meryl Levitz, chief executive officer of the Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corp., the agency in charge of promoting the city. "Festival goers want the total experience.

"The phenomenon with this is that before now, no concert promoter would put anything in the city on Labor Day," she said.

Said Mark McDonald, press secretary for Mayor Nutter: "On what is normally, historically, a relatively quiet weekend and the usual refrain is 'Where are you going to be,' and the answer is usually 'the Shore,' we think there will be a lot more people in the city."

Levitz and McDonald said the impact on the local economy from the weekend was hard to quantify because receipts won't start coming in until a month or two later. But they say the benefits will extend way beyond that with the national and social-media exposure that Philadelphia is expected to get as a result of landing Jay-Z, the Boss, and other name acts.

"In many ways, [the benefits] are ancillary," said McDonald. "We will see a spike in different revenue categories, in terms of taxes - such as the amusement, sales, and hotel taxes.

"We would expect that there would be some impact on restaurants, maybe retail to some extent. But a focus either on the economic benefit or the cost to the city of some kind over this event misses the big picture. Made in America is an event that other cities were interested in having."

About 50,000 are expected each day for Made in America, which will include Pearl Jam, the Hives, Jill Scott, and others. An additional 40,000 are expected at Citizens Bank Park for both Springsteen shows. A saleswoman for Comcast Tix said late Thursday that there were still Springsteen tickets for both nights.

"The last tickets will go to those waiting to see what the weather will be, and whether the hotel prices will go down," said Levitz.

But there are not many rooms left, and prices aren't likely to fall, say hoteliers.

The new 136-unit Homewood Suites by Hilton in University City, for instance, which had its grand opening Aug. 1, is sold out Saturday, according to general manager Paul DiNapoli.

"And we have limited availability this Friday and Sunday," he said. "Much of this is folks in for the weekend to enjoy the Labor Day events."

If Travelocity is any indicator, only a handful of the 11,300 rooms in Center City are un-booked.

"The hotels are doing very well this weekend," said Ed Grose, executive director of the 87-member Greater Philadelphia Hotel Association. "Not only are the hotels full, but they're getting a decent rate, too.

"Compared to most Labor Days, we are doing very well. The only thing we can attribute it to are the concerts."

Grose said any comparison to last year's Labor Day weekend would be unfair because Hurricane Irene scared off all travel to the region.

Adding to this weekend's buzz is news that film producer Ron Howard is shooting a documentary of Made in America that will include Jay-Z's performance Saturday on the Parkway.

The Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corp. has been heavily touting the city's music scene this month. It will conduct a local studio tour Friday with 19 music writers from around the country.

"It's so important for an older destination, like Philly, to be current on pop culture and Americana," Levitz said. "I think Philly and its pop scene are really hitting people's consciousness."

"It's an opportunity to showcase this city and its tremendous music traditions," McDonald said. "That was the mayor's point - we're a big city that does big things, and this will be a big event."

Spectrum Grill, a steak house at the Xfinity Live! dining/entertainment venue at the stadium complex, is getting a robust number of dinner reservations for both Springsteen concerts.

"We expect terrific crowds this weekend," said Ike Richman, spokesman for Comcast-Spectacor, which co-owns Xfinity Live! with Baltimore-based Cordish Cos. "This [weekend] will really put Philly on the map and solidify it as a music scene."


Made in America Facts

Getting there

Tickets may be purchased for one or both days at Ticketmaster.com and Livenation.com.

SEPTA will add service on the Broad Street and Market-Frankford Lines. Service also will be added on city trolley routes and the Norristown High-Speed Line, which connects with the Market-Frankford Line at the 69th Street Terminal.

SEPTA will provide bus service to and from a remote parking site at the Mann Center for the Performing Arts. Beginning at 10 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, SEPTA will have buses on Kelly Drive between Fairmount Avenue and 25th Street for return-trip service to the Mann. Regular SEPTA fares will apply.

SEPTA and NJ Transit trains will run on normal weekend schedules. Routes, schedules: www.septa.org or www.njtransit.org.

Things to bring (or not)

What's allowed: Blankets, towels, backpacks, small umbrellas, one factory-sealed water bottle of up to one liter, empty water containers, nonprofessional cameras.

What's encouraged: Government-issued identification - and a credit card.

What's not allowed: Weapons, fireworks, drugs, outside food, outside drink except for water, pets, chairs, glass containers, skateboards, coolers, professional cameras, glowsticks, laser pointers, and anything that might obstruct someone's view, such as flags or large signs.

Once you're in

The festival will go on rain or shine.

Concertgoers who exit the festival grounds will not be permitted to reenter that day.

The main entrance to the festival is at 22d Street and the Parkway. Two other entrances: at 23d Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, and 24th Street and Martin Luther King Drive at Eakins Oval.

Food vendors include:

Lucky Old Soul Burger Truck

P.J. Whelihan's

Pitruco Pizza

Guapo's Tacos

Yum Yum Food Truck

Ben & Jerry's

Lil Baby's Ice Cream

Gigi & Big R Soul Food

Soul Food Truck

HUB Bub

Maru Global

Magglio's Sausage

Gozen

Lil Trents Treats

Vernalicious

Tiffin/Tashan

Three charging stations for cellphones and mobile devices will be on site. Water will be offered free at two stations.

Budweiser plans to deliver a live webcast and music stream via YouTube and Pandora. The streams may be accessed via www.youtube.com/BudMadeInAmerica or www.pandora.com/BudMadeInAmerica.

For more information, visit MadeInAmericaFest.com.

For complete coverage of the 2013 Budweiser MIA Festival, click here.


Contact Suzette Parmley at 215-854-2855 or sparmley@phillynews.com.

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