Call it a home run, slam dunk, touchdown, whatever. The presence of sports continues to have positive economic and psychological impacts across the region.
When it comes to the direct benefits garnered from having sports — teams, leagues, events — in the region, the hits just keep on coming. Sort of like a Steven Stamkos slap shot or a towering Evan Longoria tater. It's guaranteed. Or, as the popular saying goes, “It's money.”
Dollars, indeed, when it comes to being an economic driver. The business of sports is big — with big impact.
For starters, specific events — ranging from spring training baseball, the Daytona 500 and pro golf tournaments to college football bowl games and Kissimmee's Silver Spurs Rodeo — attract thousands of fans (read: consumers) and represent millions in tourism dollars coming in from outside the community. It's Moneyball of a whole other sort.
Some statistics you won't find in a box score:
Major League spring training baseball brings in more than $750 million annually to the Sunshine State. It also supports or creates more than 9,000 part- or full-time jobs. Stores, restaurants, theme parks and other venues where people spend money are completely full during the 36 days of training camps. Nine teams train within the 14-county Super Region.
The Daytona 500 brings more than $2 billion a year into the Central Florida economy. The Florida operations for International Speedway Corp. resulted in more than 38,000 jobs, more than $1 billion paid in income to those workers and more than $331 million in total tax revenue.
Florida Citrus Sports’ two bowl games in Orlando — the Capital One Bowl and the Champs Sports Bowl — generate on average about $80 million annually for the local economy.
Since 1995, the Outback Bowl in Tampa has created more than $450 million in economic impact for the local community and tens of millions of dollars in exposure for the region.
In 2009 — as a major economic recession gripped the country — Super Bowl XLIII still managed to deliver more than $100 million to the Tampa economy. The Super Bowl, by the way, returns to Raymond James Stadium in February 2015, hopefully.
In 2005, the estimated U.S. Gross Domestic Sports Product was $207 billion. Although figures for more recent years aren’t officially available, most experts agree that the number certainly hasn't decreased.
And here's something else to look forward to — possibly, given the current labor dispute in the National Basketball Association, which has the season on hold: Based on the numbers generated in the most recent two cities that hosted the game, the Orlando Magic 2012 NBA All-Star Weekend could garner between $80 million and $100 million of economic activity for the region.
All of this doesn't even include an entire spectrum of other sports-related activities in the area. ESPN Wide World of Sports, a multi-venue, 250-acre complex at the Walt Disney World Resort, hosts more than 70 sports for athletes of all ages. Many of them travel from across the world to participate in more than 350 amateur and professional events each year — often accompanied by family members.
In Sarasota County last fiscal year, the 33 events sponsored by the Sarasota Convention & Visitors Bureau pumped more than $23 million into the local economy and filled nearly 27,000 hotel rooms. Also, the county boasts a 2,000-meter world-class sprint course for rowing, which officials hope will serve as a training hub for the U.S. rowing community.
Lake County is home to the National Training Center, where aspiring Olympic athletes come from around the world to train for competition in track, swimming and gymnastics. And Polk County Sports Marketing, with a mission of promoting tourism and economic development through sports, has helped to pump more than $700 million into the county's economy during the past 12 years.
Other counties have similar stories.
“More than 14 years ago, we recognized the power of sports as an emerging segment of the travel/tourism industry that aligned perfectly with many of our business goals and objectives,” says Ken Potrock, senior vice president of Disney's Sports Enterprises and Downtown Disney. “By adding a sporting experience to our product portfolio, we saw a real opportunity to draw in more visitors to the Disney theme parks, as well as to the Central Florida region as a whole.”
According to research, he notes, a large majority of guests who come to ESPN Wide World of Sports wouldn’t have come to Walt Disney World or Central Florida if not for the games, tournaments, events and competitions offered at the sports complex. One example is the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend, presented by CIGNA. As more athletes combine vacation fun with the adventure and challenge of an endurance sport, the event has grown from approximately 5,500 runners in 1994 to more than 110,000 athletes and spectators this year. Today, it ranks among the most popular destination races in the world and is comparable to the largest conventions in Central Florida.
It's all about business.
And there's even more impact. Consider sports' charitable tally. This year, the Orlando Magic Youth Foundation provided a $100,000 grant to the Valencia Community College Foundation to help support Take Stock in Children of Orange County, an organization that helps dozens of underprivileged kids who display outstanding ambition and promise in and out of the classroom to continue their education past high school by rewarding them with college scholarships. In part due to the OMYF’s grant, more and more students from three middle schools and 11 high schools are being given greater academic opportunities.
Dawn Lopez, a contract administrator for an engineering firm in Hillsborough County, has been a widow for 10 years. In 2001, her husband, Mario, died suddenly of kidney failure, and Lopez is still paying the medical bills. Since his death, the family has struggled, trying to keep up with their modest house, which had been falling into disrepair. Until recently, it had no working air conditioning or heat, much of the floor was bare concrete slab, the fence in the front yard was falling down and you could see the sky through the garage roof.
That is, until the Shelton Quarles IMPACT Foundation stepped in to help out. Quarles, a retired Tampa Bay Buccaneers football player, started his foundation in 2004 to provide resources and opportunities to at-risk, single-parent families throughout the Tampa Bay area. It is one of several Tampa Bay Buccaneer player foundations that give back to the community. In April, companies and volunteers partnering with the IMPACT Foundation started work on the Lopez family home. In just three days, the house had wood floors instead of concrete.
The Lightning Foundation, charitable arm of the Tampa Bay Lightning, this year launched the first of three nominating periods for its Lightning Community Heroes program, an initiative designated to distribute a generous portion of the $10 million pledge by owner Jeff Vinik and his wife, Penny, to deserving nonprofit organizations throughout the Tampa Bay community over the next five years. On Oct. 17, prior to the team's home opener, the Lightning will celebrate that commitment with fans and award a nonprofit organization $50,000.
Tampa Bay Rays outfielder Sam Fuld teamed up with the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation for a day at the ballpark. JDRF is a leader in setting the agenda for diabetes research worldwide and is the largest charitable funder of and advocate for Type 1 diabetes research. Fuld himself was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at age 10 and has been outspoken about the cause since he began his career with the Rays this spring. He offered hope to a group of children with Type 1 diabetes by hosting them for the day at the ballpark game. Additionally, the Rays offer a variety of programs for the community's youth, such as camps, clinics and fund raising for the club's charity arm, the Rays Baseball Foundation.
And, since its first bowl game in 1947, nonprofit Florida Citrus Sports has helped thousands of at-risk youth in Central Florida through its Florida Citrus Sports Foundation MVPs programs. The organization works to increase community spirit and pride and to promote tourism while stimulating the economy while ultimately benefiting the community through its four signature events: the Capital One Bowl, the Champs Sports Bowl, the Orlando Citrus Parade and the OUC Half Marathon and 5K.
Orlando Magic President Alex Martins echoes the sentiments of other regional sports executives when he states: “We are part of the fabric of this community, and we provide a rallying point for residents and role models for our youth.”
Winning efforts, for sure.
The economy and philanthropy, though, are only two parts of an impact that reverberates throughout the region like a high-flying Dwight Howard dunk.
While many studies look at the benefits of building new sports arenas, involving variables like jobs, income and tax revenues, intangible effects have been largely ignored. The oversight is a significant one, contends Mimi Hull, a licensed corporate psychologist and president of Hull & Associates in Orlando.
Citing civic pride, community visibility and a city’s image, she says: “We can’t ignore the fact that when you host a major sports event, whether it’s a baseball game or a golf tournament, it brings the community together. When people support a professional team, it translates within the entire infrastructure, including work environments, where it helps increase solidarity.”
Regarding professional sports, Hull explains that when residents get excited about supporting their team, it provides physiological benefits such as reduced stress and greater happiness. “For businesses, when people are happy, there’s less absenteeism and better production,” she notes. “It’s all about having options when it comes to leisure activities.
“Genuine economic benefits also exist for businesses when you consider sports sponsorships and advertising, venue and event contracts, and the ability to entertain and impress clients in box seats,” says Hull. “This provides networking opportunities, can lead to new sales and accounts, and puts resources into a company’s emotional bank account. As a business owner, you have to invest in your community and in your employees, and you do this by getting involved. And by getting involved with professional sports teams and events, you can develop an esprit de corps that can’t be quantified in dollars.”
For others, such as those involved with games at ESPN Wide World of Sports, the psychological effects are easy to see, asserts Potrock. The multimillion-dollar cluster of venues — big business by any measure — delivers much-needed cash to the local economy. Yet, Potrock goes beyond money and points to the smiles on faces of coaches, players and parents alike who arrive at Disney's fields of dreams.
“Competing at ESPN Wide World of Sports leaves athletes, coaches and fans feeling as if they’ve reached the big-time,” he says. “It’s a one-of-a-kind ESPN enhanced sports experience at the leading multi-sports venue in the nation, combined with a family vacation at the world’s No. 1 vacation destination that leaves guests feeling that they’ve created extraordinary memories that will last a lifetime.”
Clearly, with sports and the economy, despite what any scoreboard might read, there are no losers.
Meet Disney's Ken Potrock
Ken Potrock (featured on the cover) is no stranger to the business of sports and the economic role it plays. As head of Disney Sports Enterprises, he is responsible for Walt Disney Parks and Resorts' involvement in all sports efforts globally, including leadership of the ESPN Wide World of Sports and the development of relationships with leagues and organizations such as the National Football League, Major League Baseball and the National Basketball Association. Working in conjunction with ESPN, Potrock has spearheaded the ESPN rebranding of the Disney sports complex and has led several expansion projects at the complex, including the development of a 100-lane bowling center scheduled to be built during the next several years.
Prior to joining the Sports Enterprises team, Potrock led Global Alliances Marketing for Disney’s Parks and Resorts division, which encompasses the five Disney Resorts around the world, Disney Cruise Line, Disney Vacation Club and the Adventures by Disney travel business. He is widely regarded as the creative catalyst for many of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts’ largest consumer marketing initiatives and is an avid sports participant and enthusiast with an extensive background in sports marketing.
Golf's Hole in One
Ask General Manager Lloyd Williams about the impact of the PGA Tour's Transitions Championship on his Innisbrook resort, and he has two simple words: “It's huge.”
Held annually in March, the 2011 event had a purse of $5.5 million and a winning share of $990,000, which went to Gary Woodland. Other pertinent numbers: Some 30,000 local spectators from Lakeland to Sarasota, along with vacationers, descended on Innisbrook's 900 wooded acres located about 20 miles from Tampa International Airport. The seven days of golf and related activities had a direct $20 million economic impact on the area. Plus, not counting this year, more than $9 million was raised for area charities to push the total since 1977 to approximately $25 million.
For the resort, which recently has undergone $26 million in improvements, there's a similar boon. Big picture, the PGA Tour stop helped “drive the Innisbrook brand into places that a single entity couldn't do,” says Williams. In terms of daily business, consider the scene in 2010, when a Sunday rain delay resulted in the resort's clubhouse restaurant, Packard’s Steakhouse, doing 580 lunches, with the dining room turning over almost six times that afternoon.
The exposure does come with a price. Preparation for the annual tournament is virtually a 12-month process, led by The Copperheads, a group of Tampa Bay community and business leaders that helps local charities through golf and that actually directs the tournament. Within three weeks following the event, a post-critique exercise reviews everything from operations and traffic flow to TV ratings and resort branding. And, throughout the year, every decision that affects the resort's famed signature Copperhead Course is influenced by the Transitions Championship.
Still, Williams leaves little doubt about his enthusiasm for enduring the rough. “We love having the event,” he says.
A Homegrown Effort
Responding to a tough economy and complaints about the handling of local contracts when the Orlando Magic built the original Amway Arena more than 20 years ago, the club used several local and minority- and woman-owned firms to help with construction of the new Amway Center.
Sunil Tarheja saw firsthand how the Orlando Magic and the city of Orlando went the extra mile to make sure that those businesses were major contributors to the construction of the new state-of-the-art Amway Center.
“They did a great job involving local companies and ensuring that there were jobs for a lot of people,” Tarheja says. “Great effort was put into making sure that the work got spread around. It wasn’t an easy thing to do, but they broke up a lot of the jobs into smaller pieces so more companies could be involved in the process. You don’t see this a lot, so I really applaud them for that.”
The city of Orlando wanted 24 percent of the construction firms to be local minority and woman owned. It ended up at 32 percent, with nearly $100 million in contracts awarded to those firms.
Location, Location, Location
One recent national study examined the economic impact that building new sports arenas has on residential housing values. The results show those facilities have a “significant positive effect on the value of those surrounding houses and that this positive effect decreases as the distance from the facilities increases.”
According to the findings, a new sports facility constructed in the core of a large city as part of an urban redevelopment program can cause residential property values within one mile of the facility to increase hundreds of millions of dollars. A new sports facility constructed outside the center of a large city and unrelated to an urban redevelopment program will cause residential values around the facility to increase tens of millions of dollars.