CLEARWATER — The destruction of a Clearwater Beach eyesore turned into a major marketing and financial boon for the city as thousands of people flooded the beach during an off-peak season and a national television crew used the beach's picturesque view as a backdrop.
According to overnight numbers supplied by A&E, 2.2-million viewers watched illusionist Criss Angel's daring escape from the imploding Spyglass hotel on his show Mindfreak Wednesday night. And Clearwater officials say there were nearly 25,000 people on the beach. There were also 50 boats sitting offshore.
"If you watched it on TV, it was beautiful and our Beach Walk was shown off to the extreme," said Sheila Cole, executive director of the Clearwater Beach Chamber of Commerce. "The palm trees, the surf, the sand, it looked like an ad for Clearwater Beach rather than the Mindfreak show."
The mayor agreed.
"The name Clearwater was bantered about the entire show and the pictures of Beach Walk were spectacular," Mayor Frank Hibbard, said. "It's terrific publicity, and it showed a really good face on Clearwater Beach."
Beach Walk is a $30-million beautification project that was dedicated July 18.
For local business, the beach traffic was an unexpected delight. All but two of the Clearwater Beach Travelodge's 54 rooms were booked.
"The end of July is pretty slow, especially midweek," said Kathy Mittler, general manager of the Travelodge. "We really did very well. I think the whole beach did very well. I couldn't believe it. Even the restaurants did well. It was unbelievable."
Bob Forney is a server at Jimmy's Fish House and Iguana Bar on Clearwater Beach. He said the restaurant was bustling. "With the economy, any little bit helps," Forney said. "And this definitely helped all of us as we continue to try to support our families during these tough times."
Traffic clogged the beach until 2 a.m. Instead of trying to fight that battle, Cole said a lot of folks hung at the beaches' bars and restaurants.
Demorris A. Lee can be reached at 445-4174 or [email protected]