Local businesses see increase in profits from Olympic Wrestling Trials

BY DORA GROTE | APRIL 24, 2012 6:30 AM

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An ancient sport brought bustling streets and crowded restaurants to Iowa City last weekend.

Business managers said fans attending the Olympic wrestling trials in Carver-Hawkeye Arena brought significant gains to local businesses.

Liz Sanders, the general manager of Hamburg Inn No. 2, 214 N. Linn St., said the restaurant had a constant flow of customers all weekend.

"Our lunch rush lasted pretty much until dinner," she said. "As a whole restaurant, we were jammed-pack for the weekend. It was pretty awesome."

Sanders said there were almost 700 people in the establishment each day this weekend when the numbers are typically near 500.

Stephen Taylor, the general manager of Buffalo Wild Wings, Old Capitol Town Center, said sales increased from around $8,000 or $9,000 on a typical Saturday to approximately $14,000.

"There were lots of people, and they were definitely enjoying themselves and a having good time," he said. "We even had to turn a lot of people away."

A free city-bus shuttle transported 3,032 passengers to the Carver-Hawkeye on April 21 and 2,098 on Sunday. Normal Iowa City Transit services see approximately 1,650 to 1,900 rides to passengers each Saturday, with no service on Sunday. And around 7,000 passengers rode the bus systems this weekend not including Cambus, said Chris O'Brien, the city's director of transportation services.

Heartland Inn, 87 Second St., Coralville, sold out on the evening of April 21 — 169 rooms — four months in advance, general manager Debbie Bullion said.

"The main big thing is that we sold out way far in advance, which rarely happens," she said. "We were sold out Friday and Saturday night. It was definitely an increase in what's typical."

Curt Schamberger, a front-desk clerk at hotelVetro, 201 S. Linn St., said it also sold out its 50 rooms three months in advance.

"Just by telling from the number of people looking for rooms, we could have had two large hotels in addition to the ones we have now and still would have sold out," Schamberger said.

Attendance for the four wrestling sessions in Carver Hawkeye Arena totaled 54,766.

And the chilly weather didn't stop frozen yogurt sales.

Veronica Tessler, the owner of Yotopia, 132 S. Clinton St., said she saw twice the number of customers.

"You could tell the people coming in were new because they weren't sure how to run the machines," Tessler said. "Most of them didn't know that it was self-serve, but it was cool to have some nationally known wrestlers in here."

Josh Schamberger, the president of Iowa City and Coralville Area Convention and Visitors' Bureau, said city officials spent 18 months preparing for the event and were happy with the turnout.

"There was a lot of money spent in Iowa City this weekend," Schamberger said. "It was a good thing for everybody and actually makes me very proud to know how well my community did respond and how they rolled out the welcome mat for almost every state in the nation."

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