Seminole County, Florida, is planning the construction of a major sports complex aimed at attracting youth athletic tournaments. The $27-million complex, designed to stretch over 102 acres, will include a baseball stadium and fields for soccer, lacrosse, football, and softball.
The county sits close to Disney World and other large, popular theme parks, and has been looking for a way to increase local tourism. A study conducted by Seminole County suggested that one tournament could draw as many as 1,900 people. According to the study, 17 events in one year could generate about $19 million for the local economy and add more than a dozen jobs. After five years, and with additional tournaments, the income generated locally would rise to $25 million, county officials said. The figure represents spending by visitors at nearby hotels and restaurants, retail stores, and other businesses.
Eric WIllin, COO, of EZFacility, a sports facility management software developer in Woodbury, New York, noted that city and county governments around the country are looking into establishing similar sports complexes as a way to generate revenue and support local business. "Youth sports travel has become a huge industry," he said. "Families like the idea of traveling with a purpose, and if that purpose is deepening or challenging their children's skills -- or just allowing their kids to have as much fun as possible -- then all the better. Simply put, it's become a multibillion-dollar industry." According to the latest figures compiled by the National Association of Sports Commissions, an Ohio-based group that works with tournament organizers and facilities, families spent an estimated $7.68 billion traveling with their children to youth-sports tournaments in the United States in 2011.
The proposed Seminole County facility would include 15 lighted fields with synthetic turf, suitable for baseball, softball, soccer, and lacrosse. The complex would also include a pavilion, walking paths, a playground, and a food-truck court. In addition to catering to athletic tourism, county officials noted, the complex would open its doors to local residents as well, allowing them use of the fields and other facility amenities.