- The Washington Times - Monday, August 7, 2000

The tall ships that sailed into Baltimore's Inner Harbor in June brought with them a wave of tourism dollars for the city.

OpSail, an around-the-world tour of about 30 tall ships, docked in Baltimore from June 23 to 29. Restaurants and shops alongside the harbor reported sharp increases in traffic and revenue during the week.

Tourists and locals 1.5 million of them came out to see the ships and spent $55 million in the city, according to the Baltimore Area Convention and Visitors Association. That translated into $100 million in economic impact dollars.

The city saw 13 million visitors in all of 1998, the latest year for which information is available. In 1998, tourism's economic impact was $3 billion.

"It was an extremely busy and successful time for the city," said Nancy Hinds, director of communications for the Convention and Visitors Association.

She added that the event coincided with a square-dancing convention, and was followed by the annual meeting of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

"We were pleasantly, absolutely slammed," said Earl Oxley, co-owner of Brown's Wharf Restaurant in Fell's Point.

A Chilean ship was docked in front of the seafood restaurant, drawing onlookers and hungry diners. Mr. Oxley said business lately has been slow due to rainy weather, but OpSail helped compensate somewhat.

The Water Taxi, which takes riders to various points around the harbor, was likewise swamped, especially on Saturday and Sunday.

Husband and wife co-owners Ed and Cameron Kane said they were overwhelmed.

"It was a test of our system, we were bent but we didn't break," Mr. Kane said. "It was tremendous money, but hard-earned."

A manager at the Cheesecake Factory, a popular chain restaurant in the Pratt Street Pavilion at Harborplace, said business was up 15 percent over last year during the OpSail week.

Phillips seafood restaurant had its top sales day in its 20 years at the Inner Harbor on Saturday, an employee said.

All 270 slips at the Haborview Marina were occupied, a manager said.

Visitors bought souvenirs as well as meals.

Cheryl Crowther, merchandise manager for Celebrate Baltimore, which has three stores, including one in the Light Street Pavilion, said T-shirts were hot sellers especially OpSail 2000 shirts that listed ships and countries of origin.

From the store, situated centrally in the pavilion, Ms. Crowther had a good view of the crowds.

"The whole building was just full," she said.

Tourists also flocked to the Power Plant, a refurbished plant that houses the ESPN Zone, Barnes and Noble, Hard Rock Cafe and the nightclub Lava Lounge.

"We were very busy," with noticeably higher sales volumes, said Barnes and Noble manager Kelly Brandt.

Admissions at the National Aquarium in Baltimore increased 8 percent during the week, but traffic at the Maryland Science Center remained relatively unchanged.

Center spokeswoman Christine Rowett said tourists may have opted to stay outside on restaurant patios and aboard ships rather than come inside.

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