Hockey, hotel are giving downtown Youngstown a big bang of excitement

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Positive energy in and around downtown Youngstown has reached stratospheric heights this week as two historic events with decidedly positive implications for the future of the central city collide.

On one corner stands the opening of the downtown’s first full-service, grand-scale hotel in more than 50 years. A few blocks down the street stands the arena where the city hopes to clinch its first national sports championship in decades.

Together, the opening of the $32 million DoubleTree by Hilton hotel on Central Square and the playing of the potentially decisive Games 3 and 4 of the Youngstown Phantoms’ quest for the coveted 2018 Clark Cup championship trophy of the United States Hockey League loom larger than life.

These milestones, each the product of months and years of hard work and ongoing commitment, bode well for the future of growth and revitalization of the central business district. As such, residents of Greater Youngstown ought show their unbridled appreciation and support.

Nearly four years after the initial announcement of plans to save the historic 12-story Stambaugh Building on Central Square from the fate of the wrecking ball, developers swung open the doors to the city’s first full-service hotel in the restored edifice Wednesday.

Already, the hotel is booked to near capacity for its first two weeks, a testament to its providing the missing link for escalated downtown hubbub.

For many of the tens of thousands who visit Youngstown State University, America Makes, the Youngstown Business Incubator, the Covelli Centre and other institutions in the central city, the DoubleTree Hilton fills an embarrasing void for those in need of overnight accommodations.

Of course, its direct impact will encompass projected revenues generated from consumers at the new hotel as well as the significant salaries and wages for its dozens of employees.

Economic impact

Additionally, the economic impact of the Hilton will be noteworthy. Taxes that include the Mahoning County sales and property taxes and the city of Youngstown’s income tax will serve as one bright spot to help partially offset governmental losses elsewhere.

Another indirect impact of the hotel is, of course, the added lustre it provides to a downtown already in the midst of successful rejuvenation – a prime drawing card for companies looking to invest in new properties.

Indeed, Bjorn Hanson, professor at the Jonathan M. Tisch Center for Hospitality and Tourism at New York University, singled out the city as having the right stuff for expansive growth in a New York Times article last year.

“Many companies like what they see in smaller cities. Downtowns like Manchester, N.H., and Youngstown, Ohio, are being revitalized as young adults seek out more urban lifestyles, tech hubs pop up and companies relocate there,” Hanson said.

But that blueprint for downtown growth would be incomplete without sufficient cultural and leisure amenities, not the least of which is organized sports. In downtown Youngstown, the Phantoms’ hockey franchise has been providing energy and excitement for nearly a decade at its Covelli Centre home.

This weekend, that excitement should reach unprecedented heights as Games 3 and 4 of the Clark Cup Finals are played. Our team split the opening two-game series in Fargo, N.D., last weekend, giving the Phantoms home-ice advantage to possibly win the championship outright Saturday. It’s up to Valley residents to maximize that advantage.

As we strongly urged last week in this space, the community should fill the Covelli to standing-room-only for the key games tonight and Saturday. The franchise is doing its part toward that end by offering a potpourri of special promotions and disounts for the series. See the Phantoms ad on Page A3 today for more details and ticket information.

And while you’re downtown for the games, make it a point to arrive a little early to stroll a few blocks down the street to take a glance at the new DoubleTree Hilton on Central Square. It’s bound to give you an added jolt of Youngstown pride that will come in handy when cheering this city on to a prestigious national championship.

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