- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 27, 2001

Business owners around Chinatown and the MCI Center say they are excited over the return of "His Airness" to the NBA.
The popularity of Michael Jordan, who announced on Tuesday that he will return to the NBA and play for the Washington Wizards, will provide a boost to an area that has struggled to become a economic hot spot, officials and business owners said.
"I think it will help us tremendously," said Cheryl Lewis, manager of the Rock, a bar and grill located on Sixth Street NW, adjacent to the MCI Center. "Hopefully, we'll get more than the 30 to 40 people we normally get for a Wizards game. I expect us to be completely full."
With the Wizards having poor winning records in recent seasons, game crowds have been scarce. In recent years, business around the MCI Center has been mediocre. The Discovery Store, formerly located in the MCI Center, closed its doors this month, citing a lack of foot traffic.
But business advocates and owners of shops and restaurants near the MCI Center say Jordan's return to the NBA will change all that. The Wizards already are selling more tickets. More fans means more people frequenting nearby businesses before and after the games, officials said.
"If games get sold out, we're golden," said Seamus Houston, marketing director for the Downtown D.C. Business Improvement District Corp. Mr. Houston said businesses throughout the District have struggled to attract customers since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The closing of Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport has exacerbated the problem, he said.
"[Jordans return] couldn't happen at a better time," Mr. Houston said.
Even hotels, faced with high vacancy rates because of fears relating to travel, said Jordan's return will provide a boost to business.
"Obviously, like everybody else, we're thrilled," said Marc Ellin, vice president and managing director for the Grand Hyatt Washington, three blocks from the MCI Center. "Many people will buy tickets, they'll go to the restaurants and go to the bars and, quite possibly, some will stay in hotels."
Mr. Ellin said he expects some business from fans of opposing teams. He added that improved ticket sales at Wizards games as a result of Jordan's presence will have a trickle-down effect that will be felt by all businesses in the area.
"His return will be good for business in the District," Mr. Ellin said.
Business owners so far have expressed nothing but excitement.
"Woo-hoo. It's incredible," said Greg Algie, a part-owner of Fado Irish Pub, when asked about the return of His Airness. Fado is located right next to the MCI Center on Seventh Street NW.
"The draw [during Wizards games] last year was not that good. This is bringing back the excitement," said Mr. Algie, who added that he likely would start working with the Wizards marketing department on cross-promotions.
Mr. Houston said he plans to speak with Wizards marketing representatives this week about spreading the Wizards brand name throughout the downtown area.

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