Journal Staff Writer
U2 Fans aren't the only ones eagerly awaiting the Irish Rockers' swing through town this weekend.
Edmonton businesses are also on the U2 band wagon. And with good reason.
Not since the Stones rolled into town three years ago will Edmonton seen such a swift infusion of money into its economy.
U2's two-day stop over is expected to deal a whopping $5 million bounty to the city.
"U2, the Stones. They're biggies," said Rick Hersack of Economic Development Edmonton.
The economic spinoff from the 1994 Rolling Stones double header is estimated to have been a $5.5 million windfall.
"We're being conservative on this estimate. We've got a lot of potential with this concert. It may surpass the Stones."
The big winners will be hotels and restaurants which will reap tremendous rewards off out-of-town visitors.
Nine of the 10 major downtown hotels have been booked for days.
"This is a terrific boost. U2 is fabulous for the hotel industry," said Grant McCurdy," vice-president of the Edmonton Visitors and Convention Association.
Brenda O'Neill with the Hotel Macdonald said the influx of U2-goers adds to an already busy hotel season.
"There are lots of meetings, weddings, conventions. U2 is a bonus to a busy month."
Local restaurants have also caught U2 fever.
Red's at West Edmonton Mall expects about 2,000 people, three times the normal crowd size, to pack the restaurant Saturday afternoon for its U2 Popmart party. The celebration includes pre-concert festivities, transportation to Commonwealth Stadium and tickets to the show.
"We're thrilled with U2. It's nice to have our facility filled to capacity and this event allows this to happen," said Kelly Vale, marketing manager of Red's.
But the biggest winner of the U2 invasion is the lagging downtown core.
Fifty thousand people work downtown daily. This weekend, 30,000 people are expected to trek through downtown snapping up souvenirs, feasting and shopping.
"Downtown is ecstatic about U2," said Peter Mercer with the Downtown Business Association.
"The spinoff is enormous. It equals clearly 50 per cent of business we would do in a normal day."
Edmonton Transit will also benefit with its park-and-ride promotion. An estimated 15,000 people will leave their cars downtown and fork over two bucks to take the LRT to Commonwealth Stadium.
Mercer said blockbuster concerts like U2 are a win-win situation for everyone, and thanks Jagger and the boys for paving the way.
"The Rolling Stones bolted Edmonton into the top 100 major rock concert destinations in North America. Now that we've proven that we can deliver these kind of figures, I think we'll see more and more of these kinds of concerts coming through. Bring them all here and keep them coming."