Come for the Theme Parks and Stay for the Sports

At the 2019 Espy Awards recognizing this year’s crop of leaders in sports, women’s soccer forward Alex Morgan held up the trophy she had just won for Best Female Athlete and said, “Sorry, but this is probably the second-best trophy we won this week.”

The U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team had made its way to Los Angeles for the awards show after winning its second consecutive FIFA Women’s World Cup and fourth overall during the tournament in Lyon, France, and stopping in New York City for a ticker-tape parade to celebrate. The group won the 2019 Espy for Best Team.

People all over the world had claimed this team as its own and Morgan as one of their favorites. But the reality is that each player has a home pitch, and Central Florida is lucky to claim nine World Cup players as members of the Orlando Pride major league soccer team.

Why do I bring this up in this month’s issue, which has a theme of tourism? Because tourists go to Los Angeles to see their favorite movie stars, and they travel to New York to see their favorite stage actors. I contend that Orlando is becoming known as a place where tourists can see some of their favorite athletes. Look at all the golf greats who have lived here, including Arnold Palmer, Annika Sorenstam and Tiger Woods. Shaquille O’Neal started his superstardom here with the Orlando Magic. And now we have women’s soccer players who have won hearts.

I watched at the edge of my seat as Shane Lowry won The Open men’s golf championship July 22 at Royal Portrush Golf Club in Northern Ireland. Some have suggested a statue will be installed in his honor in his village of Clara in the Republic of Ireland. This is how tourist attractions are formed. People might not go to Ireland just to visit Clara, but they will make it a stop on their tour.

So, what will the results of Women’s World Cup Soccer mean for Orlando? My prediction is that kids from all over the world who come to the theme parks with their parents will want to see their favorite players on their home turf. I found this statement on a website for The Best FIFA Football Awards, which will be held in Milan in September:

“In a FIFA Women’s World Cup™ year, it is clear that the passion and excitement around the women’s game is growing — as is the interest from fans and media alike. Those at the very top of their profession, perhaps even more so than in the men’s game, transcend their sport and inspire youngsters across the world.”

The Pride’s roster includes Brazilian forward Marta, who was named The Best FIFA Women’s Player in 2018 and has scored more goals in World Cup games than any other player, male or female. One of my favorite memories from the Women’s World Cup this year came during the game between Brazil and France, which went into extra time. A TV commentator was saying how exciting the game had been, “and we have Marta in red lipstick!” Marta wore bright red on her lips to make a statement about her competitiveness and the need to figuratively leave blood on the pitch to win. Although Brazil lost to France 2-1, Marta set the record with her 17th goal in that game. This is the stuff legends are made of.

The Orlando Pride includes three players from the U.S. World Cup team: Morgan, who plays forward, defender Ali Krieger, and goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris, who serves as the Pride’s team captain. It also includes Brazilian defender Camila Martins Pereira; Australians Alanna Kennedy, a defender, and Emily van Egmond, a midfielder; Canadian defender Shelina Zadorsky; and forward Claire Emslie, a new Pride team member from Scotland. They are all ambassadors for Orlando.

People are increasingly coming to Central Florida not only for traditional tourism experiences but also for sports, including golf tournaments, college football and basketball tournaments, professional all-star games, youth competitions and hopefully Men’s World Cup Soccer in 2026. And we are here to welcome them.

Have a great month!

About the author

Diane Sears

Diane Sears

A career journalist, author and advocate for business growth, Diane Sears is the editor-in-chief of i4 Business. She is the founder and president of DiVerse Media LLC and co-founder of the Go for the Greens Foundation, which helps connect current and future women business owners with growth opportunities. She also serves in leadership roles with the Women Presidents’ Organization, Women’s Business Development Council of Florida/Women’s Business Enterprise National Council, and Athena PowerLink.

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