- The Washington Times - Friday, February 9, 2001

Get ready for stretch limousines, traffic backups, groupies and lots of star appeal. Oh yeah, and basketball, too.

The National Basketball Association's All-Star 2001 weekend is under way, and dozens of events everything from volunteer projects to hard-core clubbing will lead up to the big game Sunday evening at MCI Center.

Around town, musicians like Jessica Simpson are showing up, along with celebrities like Ananda Lewis, Carson Daly and a who's who list of the top entertainers from the world of rap and hip-hop.

D.C. law enforcement officials are holding their breath, hoping that the celebrity-studded parties come off without the violence that seems to dog the steps of rappers.

For the league, though, this is a time to focus on the positive.

"This week has been a terrific, terrific week for us at the NBA," said Hall of Famer Bob Lanier, one of an army of NBA representatives who has come to the District to promote the league. "We're kind of showing off."

Today, for instance, begins with a panel discussion on technology at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel, followed later by the Nike Slam Dunk Contest at Spingarn High School in Northeast and a celebrity basketball game at American University.

Also, the Magic Johnson Foundation is sponsoring free health clinics and players, their wives and their mothers are cleaning up Montgomery Elementary School in Northwest.

At night, there's the NBA Commissioner's Reception at MCI Center, the Congressional Black Caucus Reception and Dinner at the Ritz-Carlton and the Steve Francis "Wrong Songs Party" at the Omni Shoreham Hotel, among other happenings.

Some of these gatherings will be the only chance many have of seeing any athletes this week.

The actual basketball events, such as the Slam Dunk competition tomorrow and the All-Star Game itself on Sunday, are sold out.

Tickets are fetching upward of $3,000 on the Internet. Even cable network TNT's party tomorrow is pricey, with one site advertising tickets for $750.

NBA officials, however, said thousands of D.C. area students earned tickets through the league's local volunteerism program, called NBA TeamUp.

Throughout the week, the league has been putting on a fan-friendly face by showcasing fixed-up basketball courts, refurbishing a home and hosting a wheelchair basketball game.

"We at the NBA, with our teams and our players, want to leave some symbol, some legacy behind," said NBA Commissioner David Stern. "Too often, the good that our players and teams do … get somewhat overshadowed by news reports of the not-so-good."

Yesterday, legendary NBA great Michael Jordan joined Mr. Stern and others at the Eastern Branch of the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Washington to publicize a renovated gym and a new teen learning center with computers.

"You guys are truly, truly blessed that the NBA as well as the [Washington] Wizards and the city of Washington have gone to the extreme … to make sure that you guys have a great environment," he said.

Meanwhile, the weekend is providing an injection of cash into D.C. businesses.

The Grand Hyatt Washington, one of the official All-Star hotels, is expecting 95 percent occupancy during the four-day event. Guests won't leave the 900-room hotel until Monday.

The 58-room Best Western Downtown Capital Hill on Third Street NW is expecting close to 80 percent occupancy during a time of the year when it usually is only about half full, said General Manager Warren Chin-Lee, who added that spring and fall are the busiest times of the year for the city's hotels.

Restaurants are likely to fare well, too.

M&S; Grill, on the corner of 13th and F streets, and McCormick & Schmick's on K Street NW, have several groups of 10 to 12 people booked throughout the weekend, especially for early dinners before Sunday's game, said spokeswoman Jill Collins. M&S; Grill expects its $14.95 Sunday lobster special to be a big hit with patrons.

Georgia Brown's is already booked for Sunday brunch, which is unusual for the Southern-style restaurant on 15th Street NW.

"We're expecting a lot of business this weekend," said spokeswoman Jennifer Soden.

Navigating the hoopla may be tough for D.C. motorists.

The D.C. Emergency Management Agency yesterday announced more than 50 street closings, mostly around hotels and spots like the Washington Convention Center and Constitution Hall.

Police, fire and other city officials have met with club owners and NBA representatives to prepare for the weekend, especially security for the parties, said EMA Director Peter LaPorte.

"We're going to have additional officers working Friday and Saturday," said Sgt. Joe Gentile, a Metropolitan Police spokesman.

Some clubs have been issued special permits for the weekend.

Republic Gardens at 1355 U St. NW and Club 2K:9 at 2009 Eighth St. NW are allowed to expand their clubs into tents today and tomorrow.

Planet Hollywood at 1101 Pennsylvania Ave. NW is allowed a tent expansion today, and Capitol City Brewing Co. at 50 Massachusetts Ave. NW is allowed the same tomorrow.

The 900 block of F Street will be closed overnight tonight as Platinum and DC Live will set up their own tents.

The D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs issued no permits to extend the hours that liquor can be served.

The D.C. Department of Public Works department will deploy extra cleanup teams from 3 to 8 a.m. in "major entertainment areas" such as the U Street corridor, Georgetown, Adams Morgan and Dupont Circle.

Normal night cleanup crews will change their shifts to work from 5 p.m. to 6 a.m.

• Donna De Marco contributed to this report.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide