While the rest of the country may have their hopes pinned on the Powerball, four sports entities in Florida are hoping for great things out of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity. The four groups – the Jacksonville Jaguars, Daytona International Speedway (DIS), the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Miami Dolphins – are each hoping they will be the recipients of a grant the Florida DEO is empowered to offer. The money, when awarded, will help the recipients pay for upgrades with taxpayer dollars. The Florida DEO is currently analyzing each request through the state’s Sports Development Program. Ultimately, the Florida legislature will make the decision regarding where to award the funds.
According to Phil Ammann writing for the Florida Politics blog, ratings given to the groups by the DEO will determine which entity wins the grant, and the legislature will evaluate how much return on investment the money will create.
“For consideration, a facility must prove viability, by demonstrating factors like substantial job creation, proven results and significant long-term return on investment,” wrote Ammann. “While three organizations made persuasive arguments in varying degrees, one rises far above the rest by providing the most compelling, well-planned and ambitious proposal: the iconic Daytona International Speedway.”
For DIS, the money would be a welcome contribution to renovations already underway. A $400 million renovation project nicknamed DAYTONA Rising that began in 2013 is scheduled to be completed early this year. The changes include five expanded and redesigned fan entrances (called "injectors"), as well as wider and more comfortable seating with more restrooms and concession stands. After the renovations, the track's grandstands will include 101,000 permanent seats with the ability to increase permanent seating to 125,000. DIS also hopes that the facility will attract non-sports events when it’s not being used for races. Ammann opines that DIS’s proposal has the advantage of containing more hard numbers rather than “pie in the sky” estimates, and it has the advantage of being backed by a range of local third-party supporters, including the Daytona Beach Chamber of Commerce, Team Volusia, and the Daytona Beach Convention and Visitors Bureau.
“Our application has a significant long-term ROI for the state and several concrete benefits, including guaranteed creation of permanent jobs, an event schedule with a history of results, and ability to function as a premier sports and entertainment facility that attracts out-of-state and international sports and non-sports fans on a year-round basis,” Daytona International Speedway President Joie Chitwood III wrote in an e-mail to Florida Politics.
In 2015, the speedway’s flagship event, the Daytona 500, earned more than 67 percent of its revenue from visitors coming from outside Florida, and had an estimated economic impact of nearly $1.6 billion. DIS officials estimate that most visitors stayed in the region an average of five days.
The Sports Development Program, which was signed into law in 2014 by Governor Rick Scott (as HB 7095) to provide funding for “the proposed construction, reconstruction, renovation, or improvement of a facility or the proposed acquisition of land to construct a new facility and construction or improvements for state-owned land necessary for the efficient use of the facility.” The application period closed on November 1, 2015.