CORONA — Forget the Mets. Local business owners are hoping that the All-Star Game will hit it out of the park for the neighborhood.
In April, Mayor Michael Bloomberg called the event, which will be held at Citi Field, an “economic grand slam” for the city, offering an estimated $191.5-million boost to the city's economy, with an additional 176,000 visitors and a multimedia audience in excess of 30 million.
Business owners at and near Citi Field, home of the struggling Amazin's, hope the excitement generates added revenue after seasons of low attendance.
“It's starting to hit us, and it's nice to think about a filled stadium,” said Chuck Rose, who has owned The Pine restaurant inside the Holiday Inn, across Grand Central Parkway from the stadium, for 10 years.
“It's going to be three days worth of activities, and as a business owner and a baseball fan I'm pretty excited.”
Many of the activities surrounding the All-Star Game are being held outside the borough.
On Sunday there will be an All-Star Legends & Celebrities softball game, pitting Mets legends like Mike Piazza and Darryl Strawberry against celebrities Chris Rock and Kevin James.
The Home Run Derby is on Monday, and the big game will be held on Tuesday night.
The Mets currently sit in fourth place (40-48) the same spot that they finished last season. Average attendance at Citi Field this year has been 26, 655 (capacity is 45,000) — 20th in the country, according to ESPN.
At McFadden’s Bar, which is part of Citi Field and is only open for stadium events, the low attendance has been a sore spot.
“We are 100 percent reliant on stadium attendance,” said Brian Begos, manager of the bar. “The more events and more bodies in the stadium, the more business we can generate.”
Begos said the All-Star Game is “the best thing in the world.”
The watering hole is hosting private parties, will air a nationally broadcast radio show from the bar and is expecting lots of celebrities throughout the weekend.
Begos also expects spillover from people who don’t have tickets, who might want to watch the event on TV as close as possible to where it’s happening.
“You don’t need a ticket, and you could be sitting next to a baseball great,” he said.
Inside the stadium, vendors who’ve taken a hit with lackluster attendance hope for their own midseason turnaround.
“It hasn't been such a busy season up until now, but we're hoping that the All-Star Game will bring us a boost," said Irene DeBenedettis, whose family owns the famous Mama’s Deli.
They’ve run stands inside Shea Stadium and Citi Field, which debuted in 2009, for 13 years, and their family-run deli has been in Corona for 85 years.
When attendance is low, their stadium operations suffer. DeBenedettis said she even expected more people through their 104th Street deli, as fans will hopefully hop off the 7 train to explore.
During big events, Queens — home of two major airports but lacking the big-city clout of the borough across the East River — often struggles to compete with Manhattan.
Rob Mackay, from the Queens Economic Development Corporation, thinks the event will be a way to show off the borough, but won’t necessarily bring in huge dollars.
“It's great and we're honored that Queens has it, and it is an opportunity for Queens,” he said.
“Queens will be in people's living rooms. But the economic development from this one game isn't huge.”
Still, the excitement the event is generating is a welcome change in the shadow of Citi Field.
On Thursday, Rose was hanging up All-Star Game banners and ordering special bottles and glasses for the event. The bar was decorated with Mets memorabilia, photos and hats, and was now dotted with the All-Star game logo.
He pointed out that former Mets all-star Dwight Gooden was eating an early dinner with his family, inside the empty dining room. Gooden is in town for Sunday’s softball game.
“This weekend is our World Series,” Rose said. "It's part of the buzz, and I'm all for it."