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Wrexham's Hollywood finale sparks USA tourism boom

2023-06-01 17:30:53 source:CBS News author:Press center2 click:146order

Wrexham is gearing up for one of the biggest weekends in its history as the city's football team - sprinkled with Hollywood glamour - bids for promotion back to the big time.

Wrexham AFC's takeover by star actors Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney has given the non-league side a huge boost.

The popularity of a Disney documentary charting the club's highs and lows has also led to a boom in interest.

Businesses also hope for a tourist bonanza fuelled by American visitors.

If Wrexham beat Boreham Wood on Saturday they will clinch the National League title and promotion back to the English Football League after a 15-year absence.

It would fulfil a dream for the club's long-suffering fans - and for the US-based acting duo who took the unlikely decision to buy the relatively small north Wales club.

Their Wrexham courtship has ensured the club a place in the spotlight like never before.

Celebrity names such as Will Ferrell, Blake Lively - Reynolds' wife - David Beckham and Hugh Jackman have all shown their support.

Sarah Jane Gardner, an emergency room technician from Portland, Oregon, flew to the UK last week in the hope of securing tickets for Wrexham's last three matches.

She found herself embraced by the global online fan community AskWxm after watching the Welcome to Wrexham documentary to decompress on her lunch breaks.

Sarah Jane said: "I found it was just giving me some kind of joy to break the tension and the stress of being at work during the pandemic.

"What caught me up was that ability to have a little magical step away, to literally draw me into another world.

"And so that's been really nice. I mean, it's got me through some difficult shifts."

She said while her partner was supportive of her impromptu trip, most of her family and friends have no idea she is in north Wales.

"I just wanted to be a part of the community and experience the tingle in the air when the end of the season wrapped up," Sarah Jane said.

She managed to secure tickets to the 3-0 win over Yeovil on Tuesday and the Boreham Wood game on Saturday. She was also given a tour of the ground by Humphrey Ker - one of the owners' key advisers.

Other visitors from the US have been enjoying local delicacies at Marubbi's cafe in the city centre.

Hari Gould's family has run it for generations, and he's noticed an increase in American customers looking for a pre-game snack. The savoury pies are, apparently, a big hit.

And in January romance was in the air for Nic Harrington and Lainey Simonson from Wisconsin who were over to watch a game.

Hari said: "One couple got engaged outside and that was good, because I wasn't expecting that at all.

"I couldn't believe it at the time. So I took a picture with them and they just love it here, so it must have felt right for him to propose after one of his meals here".

Jim Jones, chief executive of North Wales Tourism said: "We could not buy the promotion that (the owners) are bringing to the area.

"It's a great gateway for people who visit Wrexham to then visit the rest of beautiful north Wales. I think there's not a lot that we really have to do because Rob and Ryan are doing it all for us.

"Hopefully Wrexham will go from strength to strength, not just on the pitch but also in terms of their economic regeneration which includes tourism."

Wrexham could even be promoted before Saturday's game, which has a 18:30 BST kick-off.

But that would happen only if their title rivals Notts County lose in their earlier game against bottom of the table Maidstone United.

However, for Wrexham, the maths is simple: Win either of their two remaining matches and they are back in the league they left in 2008.

It would be quite a story and the start of a dramatic new chapter for Wrexham - with a Hollywood flourish.

author:Press center4
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