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Return of Drake Relays a welcomed boost to surrounding businesses

Catch Des Moines estimates the Blue Oval tradition brings in a multi-million dollar economic impact.

DES MOINES, Iowa — Des Moines is just days away from the 2022 Drake Relays. The tradition returns after a pared-down event in 2021 with smaller crowd sizes due to the pandemic. 

This year, the Relays return for the 112th time and are poised for a full comeback. 

Salah Salah is a co-owner of Gursha Ethiopian Grill, which opened during the pandemic. He is looking forward to the potential influx of customers the track and field event will bring. 

"It wasn't as busy as we expected last year. We're really excited for this year because they're fully open," Salah said. "And I see a lot of people talking about it, so we're really excited."

Salah says the restaurant will be offering specials, like a free mango smoothie with meals throughout the events. 

Catch Des Moines says the economic impact of the Relays is a major boost to the area.

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"We estimate that the Drake Relays brings in between $12 and $13 million total economic impact amounts for the week," said Catch Des Moines Vice President of Sales Trina Flack. "Five and a half [million] of that is direct economic impact. So that is very much tied to people eating in our restaurants and what they spend in our shops and what they spend in a hotel room or gas to get here."

Flack says the week is a great opportunity for the metro to attract visitors it typically would not reach. 

"We see visitors that we wouldn't see any other time during the year for any other reason," she added. "So it really gives them a good perspective on what Des Moines has to offer."

The Drake Relays officially kick off Sunday, April 24 with road races. The track events start the following Wednesday, April 27.

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