This weekend's Arnold Sports Festival is expected to add some muscle to the local economy, as out-of-towners stay at Gahanna's four hotel properties.

This weekend's Arnold Sports Festival is expected to add some muscle to the local economy, as out-of-towners stay at Gahanna's four hotel properties.

Hundreds of festival guests will stay in Gahanna throughout the weekend and will need a place to eat, shop and see what Gahanna has to offer, said Karen Eylon, executive director of the Gahanna Convention & Visitors Bureau (GCVB).

About 15 businesses provided coupons, discounts and giveaways for 500 welcome bags that will be divided among the city's hotels during the March 1-4 sporting event.

"Our hotels do really, really well during the Arnold festival," Eylon said. "It's an awesome thing. All of central Ohio really benefits from the Arnold. The economic impact is amazing. March isn't peak tourist time in Ohio, weather-wise, especially for our hotels."

Cathy Cole, director of sales at Gahanna's Candlewood Suites, said the Arnold expo has a huge impact on Columbus and the hotel industry.

"It brings in around 200,000-plus visitors," she said. "Downtown hotels fill up first as that is where all of the events are held, but it does spread out into the suburbs, and some people prefer the suburbs because it is less expensive and you do not have to pay for parking. It also forces others to book in our suburban hotels that would normally stay in the downtown area."

Chris Tageson, sales director of Gahanna's SpringHill Suites and TownePlace Suites, agreed that the Arnold helps the downtown and surrounding communities.

"The Arnold absolutely brings significant impact to Gahanna and the surrounding suburbs," she said. "We'll get people who enjoy the hotels they stay at, and they want to stay there year after year. They will make reservations for the following year. We're close to capacity. It should be another great Arnold event this year."

Eylon said Gahanna's four hotels, including the Holiday Inn Express, have a total of 390 rooms.

The GCVB has a hospitality advisory committee that helps guide the organization to help market and attract visitors to the city.

"The HAC said to test the waters with the Arnold welcome bag," Eylon said. "We started a dialogue. The hotels always have access to visitors-guide information. This is another opportunity to provide an economic impact."

The GCVB, a nonprofit organization, is supported by a portion of the 6-percent lodging tax paid by visitors for hotel rooms. With 45 sports and events, including 11 Olympic sports, the 2012 Arnold Sports Festival presents fitness and fun for all ages.

The festival has expanded into one of the world's largest multi-sport fitness weekends since its 1989 beginning, when The Arnold Classic was a one-day professional men's bodybuilding competition.

The festival is co-promoted by legendary bodybuilder and film star Arnold Schwarzenegger.