Sport and recreation is a major contributor to Florida’s economy with activities providing over $57.4 billion in total economic output, creating over 580,000 jobs, and attracting nearly 16 million non-resident visitors to Florida. The contributions of Florida’s county and municipal Parks & Recreation Departments to sport tourism provide the maintenance and infrastructure to support numerous annual sporting and recreational activities throughout the state of Florida.
The Florida Sports Foundation presented the Fifth Annual Excellence in Sport Tourism Mid to Large Sport Market Award to the Seminole County Leisure Services and the Small Sport Market Award to the Collier County Parks and Recreation at the Annual Florida Recreation and Parks Association (FRPA) Conference in Orlando.
“It truly is an honor to recognize both the efforts of Seminole County and Collier County with these awards,” said Marvin E. Green, Jr., Vice President of Amateur Sports and Events with the Florida Sports Foundation. “The continual support of sports tourism, development, and engagement not only benefit their communities with a major economic impact, but the Sunshine State also benefits with the engagement of out-of-state visitors who chose to make return visits back to the communities in which they compete. While using innovative and competitive strategies to bring and host some of the sports industry’s top events, each group has set an example for surrounding communities to strive for their best with the resources they have available, displaying to the world why it should Come Play in Florida.”
Nominated by the Central Florida Sports Commission, the Seminole County Leisure Services (SCLS) has been an essential component of Seminole County’s overall service delivery model to the community. Orlando North Sports Tourism and the Central Florida Sport Commission have worked closely with the Seminole County Leisure Services team in securing and executing high level events while actively prospecting for future event opportunities for other venues. Seeing the opportunity to grow sports tourism within its region, Seminole County made the financial commitment of over $27 million to construct a 102-acre, 15-field sports complex that opened in May 2016.
In May 2017, Seminole County invested over $7 million into a renovated Soldiers Creek Park, which transformed an outdated little league baseball venue to a world class fast pitch softball complex. With the development or reconstruction of its venues, the County and the Central Florida Sports Commission entered into a new partnership to aggressively promote and solicit new sports tourism events that would relocate to Seminole County and the state of Florida. The successful partnership has helped not just at the new complexes, but all county operated venues.
In the last fiscal year, Seminole County and the Central Florida Sports Commission combined to host more than 72 events. These events included international, national, and regional soccer, softball, baseball, field hockey and tennis tournaments, resulting in an economic impact of approximately $30 million dollars and over 23,000 room nights generated. The figures continue to increase with projections of over $35 million dollars of economic impact and over 27,000 hotel room nights forecasted for the 2018-19 fiscal year. In total, over 12,000 visitors have come to the state of Florida and Seminole County as a result of its new venues.
Notable organizations that hosted events during this stretch included the Elite Clubs National League (ECNL), England Women’s National Football Team, Florida High School Athletics Association (FHSAA), National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA), United States Specialty Sports Association (USSSA), and USA Softball.
“Team Seminole” at the Seminole County Leisure Services includes Joe Abel (Director), Jeff Caldwell (Park and Recreation Manager and Supervisor) and Steve Daugherty, Roxanne Gonzalez, Thomas Kelly, Eric Klotz, Mark Litwhiler, and Joe Tilton (Park Supervisors). Danny Trosset, Director of Sports Tourism for Seminole County, and his business development staff, also work closely alongside the Central Florida Sports Commission team to deliver world class events on an annual basis.
The Small Sport Market Award winner, the Collier County Parks & Recreation Department (CCPRD), nominated by Naples, Marco Island, Everglades Convention & Visitors Bureau (CVB), has been a vital partner in the success of the CVB’s sport tourism mission.
Through the tireless efforts of Olema Edwards, Regional Manager for Collier County; James Hanrahan, Sports & Special Events Coordinator; Arik Garcia, Athletics Supervisor; and Rick Garby, Maintenance Superintendent; the CCPRD was able to host tournament play for 42 of the 52 weekends during the stretch between April 2017 and April 2018. The impact of play at North Collier Regional Park allowed for installation of four new artificial turf fields to be built that are set to open in September 2018. With the support of the CCPRD, the Naples, Marco Island, Everglades CVB has broken grown on a new $70 million sports complex that will open in 2021. The first phase of the project is set to be completed in 2019.
Three major events topped Collier County’s lists of accomplishments where the US Open Pickleball Championships ($3 million), Dimitri Cup Soccer Series ($2.1 million), and FBU National Championships ($1.98 million) tipped the $7 million mark in total economic impact.
Over the past fiscal year, Collier County Parks and Recreation Department hosted 36 events in 10 different sports, in partnership with the CVB. The events were held at 10 different facilities managed by the department, generating an estimated direct economic impact of $16.3 million.
About the Florida Sports Foundation
Florida’s Sports Industry creates over $57.4 billion in economic impact for the Sunshine State, provides over 580,000 jobs for its citizens, and attracts over 16 million out of state visitors each year. All of which deservingly make Florida the “Sports Capital of the World”. The Florida Sports Foundation, Inc. is a 501(C) 3 non-profit corporation, serving as the Sports Industry Development Division of Enterprise Florida, Inc. The mission of the Florida Sports Foundation is to:
Assist Florida’s communities with securing, hosting and retaining Sporting events and sports related business that generate significant economic impact and Sports Tourism for the state of Florida through the Foundation’s grant programs, legislative initiatives and Industry Partner service, recognition and development.
Provide the citizens of Florida with participation opportunities in the Sunshine State Games and Florida Senior Games events.
Serve as Florida’s leading resource for Sport Tourism research and facts.
Assist in the promotion of targeted leisure sports industries in Florida.
Assist National and Florida State Governing Bodies to promote amateur sport development through the Sunshine State Games and hosting events in Florida.