- Associated Press - Thursday, July 8, 2010

CLEVELAND (AP) - Now there’s nothing to do but wait.

The streets of downtown Cleveland were quiet Thursday as the hour drew nearer for LeBron James to announce whether he’ll stay with the Cavaliers or sign with another team.

The city _ where fans have sung, danced and cheered in a campaign to keep James here _ has nothing official planned during the one-hour special airing at 9 p.m. on ESPN. Extra police officers were being stationed downtown to handle any crowds.

Bars and restaurants throughout the region were hosting “LeBron Watch” parties featuring dunk tanks, beer specials and poster giveaways.

The Harry Buffalo bar across street from the Quicken Loans Arena where the Cavs play had painted “STAY LBJ” in white on the building. On the sidewalk were cardboard cutouts of James dunking, and several posters for the “More Than a Player” campaign were hung about.

The bar began filling up with people, some wearing James jerseys, about an hour before the ESPN special was to begin. Many were writing messages to him on the sidewalk in chalk. One said: “We will always love LBJ, but we’ll love you more if you stay.”

Also on hand was the pleasedontleave23.com campaign’s “Witness Mobile,” a 1987 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme covered with signatures of fans who want James to stay in Cleveland and red blinking lights spelling out “MVP.”

“I think he’s going to stay, despite all the rumors,” said Adam Paulino of the campaign.

At The Purple Shamrock bar’s two locations, owner Frank Borally promised to pick up the food tab for anyone who stays from 7 p.m. until the announcement is made _ but only if James chooses the Cavs. Bar-goers were making reservations for tables of eight and ten by mid-afternoon.

“Hopefully, I have to pay. I want to pay. I don’t care if it’s $3,000,” said Borally, whose bars are downtown and in suburban Willowick.

He said James’ presence keeps his business going when Cavs’ fans are drawn out for games.

“With him it’s tremendous,” he said, “especially with the weather being bad in January, February, March, he saves everything.”

The Positively Cleveland convention and visitors bureau estimates that Cavs’ home games each net about $3.7 million in ticket sales, souvenirs, food and hotel bookings.

James has been with Cleveland since he was drafted in 2003. The team had an average home attendance of about 11,500 the year before he joined, and sold out every game in its 20,000-seat arena last season.

___

Associated Press Writer JoAnne Viviano in Columbus contributed to this report.

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