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Natalie Shepherd / Eyewitness News
Email: nshepherd@wwltv.com | Twitter: @NewsNatalie

NEW ORLEANS -- Kids from all over New Orleans got a chance to kick off the NBA All-Star Weekend, running drills just like the players.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver greeted the young fans with praise for New Orleans.

'We are so thrilled to be back here. We were last here in 2008. This is one of the greatest cities in the world, not just the United States,' he said.

Thousands of people will take part in the festivities over the next three days. The New Orleans Convention & Visitors Bureau said the metro area's 38,000 hotel rooms are nearly sold out.

Kelly Schulz, vice president of The New Orleans Convention & Visitors Bureau, expects the game to bring $90 million to the economy.

'It's the hotels and the restaurants,' Schulz said. 'But it's also the shops. It goes out into grocery stores and gas stations.'

And bars. At Tropical Isle on Bourbon Street, Jon Bidwell has noticed a cold start to the year. He has kept things slow, but he's optimistic.

'Maybe a few cold days, but other than that it's been a great year so far,' he said.

And tourism seems to be heating up. Out-of-towners are already toasting the 2014 All-Star Game.

'Enjoy the festivities, maybe see a couple of stars, we just saw one,' he said.

Bidwell is ready for a big weekend between the game and the first big parade of Carnival, Krewe du Vieux.

'Well, between the two, it should be a really great weekend,' he said. 'Krewe du Vieux and the All-Star Game, it should be really great.'

Schulz hopes this is the start of a busy year for tourism.

'Mardi Gras is later this year, which is going to be a good thing for us,' Schulz said. 'With Mardi Gras falling on March 4, it's later in the year. We think people might have more time to plan.'

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