Scrimmaging for the Sports Dollar

The emphasis on sports and sporting events at all levels obviously has been great for Florida’s economy, but everyone involved in the intersection of sports and economic development is aware the proliferation of events means increased competition for the public’s entertainment dollar. Webb points to the iconic Daytona 500.

“The environment changes, and I use Daytona as an example. The Daytona 500—you couldn’t get a ticket for years, and it was the big granddaddy. It was like the Super Bowl. They [NASCAR officials] have added 26 additional races throughout the country now over the last 10 years. Well, it [the Daytona 500] is still a great product, but it’s a much harder ticket to sell.”

The owners of the Daytona International Speedway have responded with a $400 million renovation started earlier in 2013, cleverly dubbed “Daytona Rising,” enabling it to seek out other events. Speedway President Joie Chitwood was quoted recently in the Orlando Sentinel as saying a college football game could be played there within the next three years. If Daytona wants to be first, though, it had better hurry. The Bristol Motor Speedway in Virginia already is set to host a Virginia Tech-Tennessee game in early September 2016.

That’s a big part of why civic and economic development leaders place such emphasis on up-to-date, strategically placed, versatile venues.

“Today, most of the teams have built facilities that can be used year-round, so there’s a lot of other activity and events and festivals taking place,” Webb says. “Used to be if you had a football stadium, you played your eight home games and that was the only thing it got used for all year. Now they’ve got concerts and wrestling events and car shows, etc., that is good for the economy.”

Other unique additions to the Super Region sports line-up include the “Frozen Four,” the NCAA ice hockey championships. Tampa hosted it in 2012 and was just awarded the 2016 event. Dyer points to that success and says it might be a future option for Orlando, too.

Tampa also fully intends to continue bidding for the new NCAA college football championship game, and Webb expects Miami to join in the process as well, saying, “My guess is we’ll have one [a championship game] every five years.”

College football championships are nothing new to Florida, and neither are Super Bowls. But rowing championships in Sarasota? College hockey’s premier event becoming a Florida tradition? College football on the hallowed ground where Richard Petty once drove?

The sports world is changing. It has become a multibillion- dollar economic development pie. Clearly, the Super Region is poised to grab its slice.