Sports Tourism Booming in Collier County
Southwest Florida is scoring more tourists with a growing number of amateur sporting events. Both Collier and Lee counties hosted a record number of sports events last year. The events drew more visitors than ever, who stayed in a record number of hotel rooms and spent a record amount of money during their stays.
In 2014, with the help of their sports development teams:
• Lee County hosted 113 events, netting more than $60 million in direct visitor spending and more than 159,000 room nights. Room nights grew by 12 percent over the year.
• Collier County hosted 71 events, generating more than $20 million in direct visitor spending and more than 28,200 room nights. Spending and room nights more than doubled over the previous year.
“That is a growing segment for us,” said Jack Wert, Collier County’s tourism director. Last year, sports tourism drew more than 56,000 visitors to Collier — and more than 158,000 to Lee, not including spring training for the Boston Red Sox and the Minnesota Twins. It is expected that 2015 will be even busier with more events planned from baseball to watercross.
Water + Speed = Watercross
The 2015 Pro Watercross Tour World Championship was held for the first time in September at Sugden Park. It drew hundreds of competitors from around the country and some even as far away as the United Kingdom, Indonesia and even Kuwait. In addition to the competitors they also brought their pit crews, families, friends and fans which generated major dollars in direct spending and also the booking of well over 1,000 room nights in Naples. We are hoping that this becomes an annual event with watercross championships now being viewed worldwide. Events like this also encompass all types of vendors and displays for a world-class experience.
While baseball is big, Southwest Florida is attracting a variety of other sporting events, including basketball, golf, soccer, lacrosse and football tournaments. Bringing more events into Collier County is a good thing for our economy but we may have to consider limiting bringing in more as we are maximizing the use of our current facilities and need to look into building more. Collier County hosted the FBU National Championship, a youth football tournament, for the first time, bringing in teams from around the country. The county has an agreement to host the games again. The local economic boost from the championship is estimated at about $1.8 million a year, attracting about 2,500 visitors annually. With that kind of impact, it ranks third on the tourism bureau’s list of top sporting events.
Top Sports Events in 2014, with rankings based on direct visitor spending.
In Collier County:
Franklin Templeton Shootout — $1.9 million
Ace Group Classic — $1.9 million
FBU National Championship — $1.8 million
LPGA Group Tour Championship — $1.1 million
HITS Triathlon — $940,000
Source: Sports development offices in Lee and Collier counties.