Sporting Events Are Economic Drivers
Economic development is the sustained, concerted actions of policymakers and communities that promote the standard of living and economic health of a specific area.
Economic development through sports is no different. Executed slightly differently than business development in the corporate sector, sports economic development primarily comes in three forms – hosting events that drive incremental tourism, relocation of sports businesses and construction of facilities.
For the past 22 years, the Central Florida Sports Commission – whose mission is to strategically solicit, create and support marquee sports-related events and businesses that enhance our community’s economy – has been contributing to the economic health of the region by doing all of the above.
The primary driver of sports economic development is the incremental tourism that comes with hosting a sporting event. As you might imagine, when teams travel to Central Florida for an event, parents, siblings and sometimes grandparents are in tow. These visitors stay in hotels, eat at restaurants and visit our attractions, infusing millions into the Central Florida economy. The Sports Commission actively pursues events rights holders with the hopes of convincing them to host their events in Central Florida. Examples of this include the Elite Club National League Soccer Showcase tournament, which brings more than 100 girls’ soccer teams to Seminole County in December, and the AAU Girls Jr. Volleyball Championship, which takes over the Orange County Convention Center in June.
The Sports Commission also collaborates with local organizations to create events that we host annually. This provides the stability of reoccurring events that can grow with our community, building on the economic impact year over year. Examples include the Daytona Beach Half Marathon, hosted each February at the Daytona International Speedway, which brings more than 1,700 runners to Daytona Beach, and the Florida Lacrosse Festival, a growing youth lacrosse tournament hosted in Kissimmee.
From small events such as the Horizon League Golf Championship, hosted at Mission Inn Resort and Club, with only a few hundred visitors, to large-scale events like the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship, recently hosted at the Amway Center with more than 50,000 in attendance, the Sports Commission will host more than 50 events this year driving over $115 million in economic impact and generating nearly 200,000 hotel room nights for the region.
Relocation of Sports Businesses
Similar to any other large association or company, sports organizations have national and regional offices that house their executives and support staff. In addition to the full-time jobs created and the prestige that is associated with having the organization’s headquarters in our community, there are often a series of annual events that drive substantial value for our destination.
For example, when the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) moved to Orlando, a deal forged by the Disney Sports team that I was a part of, they brought with them more than 30 events that are hosted in Central Florida on an annual basis. In Volusia County, the Sports Commission played a key role in the relocation of the USTA Florida Section offices from Fort Lauderdale to Daytona Beach. Surrounding the USAT Florida offices, a 24 court state-of-the-art tennis complex was constructed which hosts dozens of annual events driving incremental sports tourism to Volusia County.
Construction of Facilities
First class facilities are one of the key ingredients in hosting a successful sporting event. Working with our local government partners and private corporations, the Sports Commission is an advocate for and an active participant in the process of sports facility construction here in Central Florida. In the City of Orlando and Orange County, leaders have embarked on a historic journey to elevate Central Florida’s status as a sports and entertainment destination by investing in facilities.
From the Amway Center in 2010 to the reconstruction of the Florida Citrus Bowl and construction of the Orlando City Soccer Stadium, they have achieved just that. Elsewhere in Central Florida, the Sports Commission is currently consulting with Seminole County regarding the construction of a large sports complex in Lake Mary, as well as Lake County with the planning for a 20 court sand volleyball complex.
In addition, to the initial jolt of business from the construction process, these facilities create full-time jobs through the hiring of staff to manage, maintain and market the facility. Moreover, the events that can be hosted at these facilities provide a lasting source of economic development for the region.
John Bisignano is president and CEO of Central Florida Sports Commission, which is the principal organization that bids on and hosts sports and entertainment events in Lake, Orange, Osceola, Seminole and Volusia Counties. Contact him at (407) 648-4900 or JBisignano@centralfloridasports.org