Cheering On the Economy

By Anna Yee
By WEEK Producer

January 22, 2012 Updated Jan 23, 2012 at 3:24 PM CDT

CENTRAL ILLINOIS -- These cheerleaders are giving Central Illinois something to cheer about.

The Universal Cheerleading Association and the Illinois Elementary School Association's competition brought in hundreds of cheerleaders and dancers this weekend, along with hundreds of their biggest fans.

That's trophy-worthy for the area's economy.

"It's really exciting," said Bob Marx, President of the Peoria Area Convention and Visitors' Bureau. "Not only are we going to have a lot of local draw for things to do, but also economic impact of a couple hundred cheerleaders staying overnight in our hotels, and of course, visiting our restaurants."

Marx said these teams and their families pump up to $180,000 into the local economy.

A lot of that money is spent across the river in East Peoria, where visitors go to shop, sleep and eat.

At T.G.I. Friday's, business was bustling all weekend.

Gina Armel, General Manager of the T.G.I. Friday's in East Peoria, said, "We were full, absolutely full. Party room was full. Both sides were full, and we were on a wait."

Armel said sales have been up about 20 percent. That's about a 5 percent increase from last year.

"Very pleased. Very please, yes," she continued. "Love to have them back every year."

And visitors packed East Peoria hotels more than two miles away from the Civic Center.

That's the same story back in Downtown Peoria at hotels like Four Points by Sheraton.

But with the Hotel Pere Marquette still closed for renovations, foot traffic could get heavy next weekend.

"Thus far, it's really not a major issue," said Marx in regards to the temporarily closed Pere Marquette. "Potentially, it could be next week when the Illinois Music Educators come to town, because that's Peoria's largest annual convention."

Unlike this event, Marx said the next one is expected to fill up just about every hotel room available in the area.

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