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'We need it': Downtown Memphis businesses hopeful Grizzlies' playoff run continues tourism bounce back

The economic impact from playoff games is especially key since Memphis In May is temporarily relocating to Midtown.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The Memphis Grizzlies playoff appearance is also a vitally important economic shot in the arm for downtown Memphis businesses ahead of Memphis in May.

The festivities are returning in full for the first time since before the pandemic in 2019 but will be near the Liberty Bowl to make way for the ongoing Tom Lee Park renovations along the Memphis riverfront.

For business owners and tourism leaders, a deep Grizzlies playoff run coinciding with Memphis in May would be a slam-dunk, best-case scenario as the city and region bounce back economically from the pandemic.

That includes Elliott Schwab, whose great grandfather founded A. Schwab Trading store, the only original business remaining on Beale Street.

His family knows a thing or two about bouncing back from hard times. 

"It's going to be good, we need it," Schwab said. "Trying to come out of the pandemic is difficult and having something big downtown is going to keep people down here."

Schwab is especially giddy about a potential deep Memphis Grizzlies playoff run, just as tourism is returning to life downtown, compared to even a few months ago.

"If we go further on, it's going to get busier and busier down here and that's what I'm looking forward to," Schwab added.

The stakes are even higher this year since the first full Memphis in May festivities before the pandemic won't be downtown, but in Midtown near the Liberty Bowl.

"The longer we go the more the economic impact builds," Memphis Tourism President Kevin Kane said.

Any playoff-related tourism and business downtown to offset dips in Memphis In May activity is key.

The festival reported a festival record-high $149 million in economic impact in 2019 before the pandemic hit.

"It's great to have these playoff games because it brings number one it brings a lot of people to downtown, but it also it brings a lot of visitors, the playoff games we bring people from all over the region," Kane added.

Those with Memphis Tourism said tickets are still sold out for Memphis in May and festival organizers will also offer free shuttles from downtown Memphis to the Liberty Bowl.

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