NBA lockout to impact Chicago businesses, fans

October 11, 2011 8:42:04 PM PDT
The NBA lockout is costing players and owners millions. But it's also hurting tens of thousands of people who depend on the game.

The preseason is history and the first two weeks of the regular season have been canceled. Workers, businesses and fans in Chicago are already feeling the pain from the lockout.

On Tuesday night at Hawkeye's on Taylor Street, a small crowd gathered to eat, drink and watch the baseball playoffs. It was nothing like the crowd that comes in for the Bulls however. The restaurant operates a shuttle bus to take fans to and from the United Center for the home games, and business is good.

"It brings in season ticketholders. It brings in people from out of town. It brings in people from all over the city," said Chris Delagado, Hawkeye's.

On ESPN Radio, the Bulls broadcast partner, talk centered on Bears football and the Blackhawks Tuesday. The Bulls are one of the most exciting young teams in the NBA with the reigning MVP Derrick Rose and Coach of the Year Tom Thibidou.

But with the first two weeks of the season canceled and more games in jeopardy, no one's talking about the Bulls, and there are no games to broadcast.

"People come to us for Bulls talk and Bulls games, and it's going to be a void to fill for us," said Adam Delevitt, ESPN 1000 program director.

Season ticket holders are getting letters from the team updating the status of the games and offering refunds on tickets to games that have been cancelled. Some fans like Jeremy Kleinman say they believe the real loser in the battle between the players and management is the fans.

"It's really disappointing. You get the feeling the NBA doesn't care about its fans," said Kleinman.

Economic impact studies suggest NBA cities could lose more than $50 million in direct economic impact if the entire season was canceled. That's huge in places like Oklahoma City whose mayor is in Chicago for a conference this week.

"I think the impact financially of an NBA team is $50 million plus a year, so if an entire season is canceled, Oklahoma City is going to feel it," said Mick Cornett, Oklahome City mayor.

Many business owners near the United Center are hoping the Bulls will be back in the stadium soon.

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