VP Debate a Boost to Cleveland Economy

The decorative banners were red, white and blue, but Tuesday's debate between Vice President Dick Cheney (search) and Sen. John Edwards (search) have local officials seeing green — as in 20 million greenbacks.

With a recent Census Bureau report listing Cleveland as the nation's poorest big city, the 90-minute vice presidential debate at Case Western Reserve University (search) was a decided boost to the local economy.

Cleveland's 7,500 hotel rooms were sold out as more than 1,000 members of the media arrived for the presidential campaign's only debate between the two vice presidential candidates.

Besides the immediate economic impact — estimated by the Greater Cleveland Convention and Visitors Bureau at nearly $20 million — officials hoped the media attention would spotlight the city as a tourist destination.

"We have a substantial foreign press corps here, so there will be significant international exposure," said Dennis Roche, bureau's president.

Case paid more than $4.1 million in fees and campus improvements to host the event, which generated excitement on the 150-acre urban campus, festooned Tuesday with red, white and blue banners. About 250 student volunteers in blue T-shirts turned out to help, along with several hundred faculty and staff. More than 2,000 students entered in a lottery for debate tickets.

Not all the images were rosy, however. Some laid-off teachers were distributing apples to highlight school cuts, and backers of third-party candidates planned a peaceful protest against the two-man debate.