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ATLANTA-A busy Labor Day sports weekend made hotel rooms difficult to find locally, with college football and stock-car racing dominating two of the three days. It’s a boost the market could use after dealing with lagging demand this summer.

The Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau estimates an economic impact of $29 million from the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Classic, played Saturday night at the Georgia Dome. Nearly 75,000 spectators attended the game between the Alabama Crimson Tide and Virginia Tech Hokies, both ranked in the top 10 in several college football polls.

Other sports events filling hotel rooms included another college football game Saturday between the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets and Jacksonville State (AL) Gamecocks, a NASCAR Sprint Cup race Sunday night at Atlanta Motor Speedway and a three-game baseball series between the Atlanta Braves and Cincinnati Reds Friday through Sunday at Turner Field. From a non-sports standpoint, roughly 20,000 were expected to attend Dragon*Con, a science fiction and fantasy convention Friday through Tuesday at the Hyatt Regency Atlanta, with an economic impact of at least $10.3 million.

William Pate, president and CEO of the Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau, says the city may benefit from shorter stays due to the recession. “Atlanta experienced a lot of pent-up demand as residents and visitors decided to forgo their traditional vacations,” Pate says.

The Atlanta metropolitan area, which has 93,000 hotel rooms, experienced a 7.7% falloff in July occupancy compared to the same month last year, the bureau states. Occupancy for the full year is expected to be down 11%, while revenue is anticipated to be off by 12%.

The local hospitality industry is worth about $11.4 billion annually when factoring in hotel taxes and related spending on restaurants and guest services. The sector is expected to benefit from repairs to hotels damaged during a March 2008 tornado, including a $22-million window replacement project at the Westin Peachtree Plaza in Downtown Atlanta.

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