Business Leaders of the Year

Sports Tourism

Jason Siegel

Jason Siegel

Jason Siegel

Greater Orlando Sports Commission

(December 2019) – The day after the Monster Jam World Finals XX brought an estimated 50,000 fans to Orlando in May, Jason Siegel was at SeaWorld with his wife, Sarah, and their four children. They were sharing a community table with a family wearing Monster Jam T-shirts. His wife smiled and teased him, “Don’t do it…” the way she always does when he talks to strangers, but Siegel couldn’t resist.

“Where are y’all from?” he asked. As the CEO of the Greater Orlando Sports Commission, it’s his job to lead a team of 12 people who attract sporting events to Central Florida and then measure their return on investment. GO Sports has counted the monster truck championship at Camping World Stadium as one of its signature events in recent years.

The father said his family was from a small city Siegel had probably never heard of in British Columbia. As a former hockey professional, Siegel was definitely familiar with the Canadian city and its minor league hockey team. As the leader of GO Sports, he was delighted. Orlando had worked hard to lure the event from Las Vegas, which had hosted it for 19 years.

“We go to this event no matter where it is,” the father said. “This is our two-week vacation. Next we’re going to Disney for two days and Universal for two days. If I can convince my wife not to go to Miami for some shopping, the kids want to stay at the theme parks until we leave next Sunday.”

“That, of course, brought me a lot of joy,” Siegel said. “That’s the validation and proof of what we’re doing as an organization. We’re helping drive visitation. We’re playing our small role in not only doing that but also bringing awareness and marketing our destination.”

Siegel fell in love with Central Florida when he moved to the area in 2011 as a co-owner of the Orlando Solar Bears minor league hockey team, which is now owned by the DeVos family that owns the Orlando Magic. He and his wife volunteer with numerous charities.

“There are a lot of communities that say they collaborate and say they are inclusive, and we truly are,” he said. “We’re still in some ways a small Southern town, but in many ways we’re an exploding epicenter.”

He stepped into the top spot at GO Sports in 2016 and is proud there have been no personnel changes in the past three years except for new hires. He said he looks for three qualities in any employee.

The first is an unparalleled work ethic. “We’re not looking for individuals who are looking for a job,” he said. “We want them invested, and there has to be a high care factor.” The second trait is competency. “Nothing warms my heart more than when staff will read an article and send it to me or go to a trade show and send a picture of a slide and say, ‘Man, we should be thinking about this!’” The third is loyalty — not to him, but to themselves, the organization and each other.

Siegel likes to quote his mentor and former boss Lou Lamoriello, a Hockey Hall of Famer and the longest-tenured general manager in professional sports. “He used to say all the time, ‘A band with eight drummers? Not usually great music.’ Somebody’s got to play sax, somebody’s got to play bass, someone has to sing. … How do the pieces fit together? How do everyone’s responsibilities interact?”

It works the same way in the community. Everyone has a job to do, and his is to promote sports and tourism as a package deal.

“What I love about our job is there are many times we’re stuck in an office cranking out projections and estimates to bid on opportunities, trying to figure out if we spend X what the return will be,” he said. “But at the same time, we’re able to go to the event we’re bringing to town and see the looks on children’s faces when they see athletes coming into the stadium.” Win-win. 

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About the author

Meaghan Branham

Meaghan Branham is the managing editor for i4 Business, where she oversees the company’s digital media strategy, handles client relationship marketing for the print and digital magazines, and serves as one of the publication’s lead writers. A native of Brevard County, she splits her time between Central Florida and Nashville, Tennessee.

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