How the Sports Industry Impacts Our Economy
Florida is known for its tourism, given our favorable year-round climate and abundance of attractions, but the sports industry is hitting a home run in more ways than one. Thought almost universally as the individual events and professional teams within its traditional offerings, the sports industry is putting on a full-court press as a major economic player in the State of Florida.
With over 26 professional sports organizations throughout the state, these agencies are working to position Florida as the leading choice for a diverse range of sporting and recreational events. From the highly televised National Collegiate Athletic Association’s (NCAA) Men’s Division 1 Basketball Tournament held earlier this year in Orlando, to the Florida Flag Football State Championship in Cocoa Beach, these opportunities are allowing Florida to capture 13.3 million new sports tourists and helping to enhance the live-work-play conversation for business relocations and expansions.
And the Space Coast Crowd Goes Wild
Although Florida may be the mecca for motorsports during the Daytona 500 and the Orlando Magic may get more airtime in national sports circles, what draws the most visitors to the state and adds real value to the hotels, businesses and the community as a whole are amateur tournaments. Central Florida has a large community of amateur athletes, organizations, venues and events.
In Brevard County, well-known sports venues like Space Coast Stadium and Kiwi Tennis Club have played host to championship events for the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) and United States Tennis Association (USTA). Non-traditional locations such as the Cocoa Beach Pier and Eastern Florida State College are home to world-renowned surfing competitions and national collegiate soccer championships. For unique events, just off the shores of Cocoa Beach is held the Space Coast Super Boat Grand Prix and the Calema Midwinter Windsurfing Festival in Merritt Island.
From high school sports tournaments to Spring Training baseball, the sporting opportunities here are varied, abundant, and most importantly, they are attractors of a flow of spending from local and out-of-town guests.
The Surprising Scoreboard
The game is on and the scoreboard reflects a powerful impact. When comparing the impact from the sports industry with one of Florida’s most important sectors, manufacturing, it’s a whole new ballgame.
While manufacturing still boasts higher than average wages and significant ancillary effects in the form of exports, the sports and recreation industry is closing in on an even playing field alongside this and other high growth economic sectors.
One-Two Punch: Business Decisions and Sports
Sporting events have the power to entertain, thrill and even influence. Companies that are considering relocations or expansions consistently rank quality of life and subsequently, recreational opportunities, high on the list of attributes that are important to their companies and employees. This list is typically comprised of educational opportunities, quality of family life, environmental considerations, arts and cultural venues, with access to sporting events remaining a key selling point. The best business cases in economic development are built upon differentiators – the more the better. Having robust recreational opportunities puts our area in a league of our own and gives us yet another edge on the competition.
Supporting the sports and recreation industry may literally seem like fun and games, but think of it as an investment in the cultural and economic framework of our community. The next time you attend a youth soccer game, participate in a triathlon, watch a surfing competition or cheer on competitors in a softball tournament, consider yourself a supporter of economic development in your community.
Lynda Weatherman is president and CEO of the Economic Development Commission of Florida’s Space Coast.