MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – The Twin Cities is gearing up to handle more tourists that normal this summer.
One week from Monday, Target Field will host the Home Run Derby, just one of the big events surrounding the Major League All-Star Game that is expected to attract large crowds.
But tens of thousands of tourists have already been here for weeks as part of a steady stream of events.
Right now, about 15,000 visitors are here for the Shriners International Imperial Session at the Minneapolis Convention Center.
They’ve come from across the United States, as well as other countries.
WCCO talked with city leaders Monday about why Minneapolis is attracting so many big events.
The Shriners are not just going to meetings at the convention center.
They’re filling up hotels throughout Minneapolis and the suburbs.
And they’re spending money at restaurants and stores.
“My first time here and I am having a good time. It reminds me, I’m originally from Boston, so it kind of reminds me of being back in Boston out here,” Dan Kelly, from Las Vegas, said.
The men are from Las Vegas.
One of them grew up in Minnesota.
“It’s a lot hipper than I remember. It’s a good time, it’s fun. It’s cleaned up really nice. Seems safe and clean. I like it,” Daniel Erickson, a former Minnesota resident, said.
Melvin Tennant is the president of Meet Minneapolis, which works to bring conventions to town.
He says 20 years ago, the metro area saw about 4 million visitors a year compared to the 29 million the area saw last year.
“We’ve grown up a lot as a city. Obviously, the big infrastructure projects that have occurred, like Target Field,” Tennant said.
And at least seven hotels in or near downtown Minneapolis have undergone major renovations in the last two years.
Add to that a wide variety of restaurants, parks and lakes, and you get a city with a competitive edge.
“They are just very surprised and very pleased and excited that there are outdoor activities to take part take of,” Tennant said.
The upcoming All-Star game activities will bring in the biggest crowd since the Republican National Convention in 2008, an estimated 160,000 people over five days.
And there’s the Super Bowl in 2018.
“That is going to open a lot of new doors for us,” Tennant said.
Tuesday night the Shriners convention will have a big impact on traffic.
That’s when they hold their Imperial Parade through downtown Minneapolis, along Hennepin Avenue.
It starts at 7:30 Tuesday night and will last about two hours.