Sports Are Big Business in Lee County


TDC Report

The Tourist Development Council (TDC) convened its monthly meeting on October 13, and heard mostly positive tourism information for the month of August 2016.

August bed tax collections were down over the same month a year ago by 2.9%, but still up overall for the fiscal year by 5.1%. Airport traffic was up 3.7% over the same month last year. Average occupancy rate went down slightly at -1.1%, but the average daily rates averaged up 1.8%

Almost hidden within the agenda was the report presented by Jeff Mielke Executive Director of Lee County Sports Development. Mielke monthly addresses the TDC with reports on activities and events held, participation levels and the economic impact of these events. Figures for the period covering June, July and August were nothing short of spectacular by any measure.

Many Sand Paper readers view youth sports in their rear view mirrors, as part of lives in prior years before retirement. Exceptions of course, would be those involved in youth sports via immediate family or friends. Some view the commitment by the Lee County Commission and others for funding and maintaining our large three baseball stadiums as confusing, expensive and not all that relevant. We all understand the approximately 30 days when fans pack Hammond and Jet Blue Stadiums for Major League Spring Baseball games involving the Minnesota Twins and Boston Red Sox. But what about the City of Palms Park, the former home of the Red Sox? What is going on there? Is it worth keeping, given the expense and its potential value to developers etc?

Listening to Mielke’s report sheds considerable light on a mostly dark subject for many residents.

The month of June involved 12 events across the County. These events were highlighted by a growing trend in Cross Fit Competition, led by Fit Nation Magazine’s – Thunderdome, which organizes events. The leading event for June was led by Perfect Game, a private firm that calls itself the World’s Largest Scouting Service. Sometimes compared to the NFL Rookie Combine, athletes are tested and perform in front of national, college and professional coaches and scouts. The economic impact of June’s 12 events totaled about $7,500,000 total spending.

Sports events held in the area feature softball & baseball as the leaders in events, attendance and monies spent. However, soccer, lacrosse, basketball, volleyball, pickleball & bowling also have events throughout any given calendar year.

Apparently June was just a warm-up for the highest month of statistics ever recorded by Mielke and the County Sports Development team. July recorded over 40,000 hotel/motel rooms rented associated with Sports Development hosted events. Total estimated spending by the athletes, families and other visitors topped $18.8 million for July.

The month of August returned to more normal traditional summer months of over 6,000 hotel/motel rooms rented, and $2.2 million in estimated total visitor expenditures.

While Fort Myers Beach accommodations and lodging operators have known about this phenomenon for years, it is only recently that the rest of us may have noticed baseball players of all ages in our area restaurants, shops, hotels and beaches. Apparently the word is out what a great destination Fort Myers is, so these events result in actually becoming family vacations, bringing visitors to our area that had no knowledge of SW Florida before. Centered on the desirability of our area are our three world-class stadiums that hold many of the events attracting families.

Mielke wanted to specifically share some data on City of Palms Park, supposedly abandoned after the Red Sox moved to Jet Blue Stadium. City of Palms Park was used for various softball and baseball events 140 days over the last year. The Roy Hobbs Amateur Baseball starts its 4-week presence in Lee County the first of November using City of Palms Park daily during its stay. Perfect Game mentioned above used City of Palms Park for 40 days. The City of Palms Park also recently hosted the collegiate NAIA Baseball Championship Tournament and is in discussions for returning in the future.

These events collectively provide high quality and affordable entertainment to our area, along with significant economic impact during our area’s traditionally slow season.

Information released this week announced Lee County will be hosting Softball-USA’s Winter National Championships November 1-6. This competition features divisions for men 40 through 85, and will be held at top-notch softball complexes throughout Lee and Collier County, including Century-Link Sports Complex (at Hammond Stadium), the Northwest Softball Complex and Cape Coral Sports Complex, and North Collier Regional Park in Naples. Winners in each division will qualify for the Tournament of Champions taking place in Florida in 2017. For more info call 239-533-5273.


Staff Report