Spring Training Impact

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Peanuts, Popcorn & More

March 26 marked the end of local Spring Training 2019 with final games being played, and our local Red Sox and Twins packing up and heading North to begin the Major League season. This is a brief summary of spring training’s impact on the area in and around Fort Myers Beach.

Running the Numbers

This is Big Business! Lee County hosts two teams for Major League Baseball Spring Training via the county-owned stadiums of JetBlue Park and CenturyLink Sports Complex. The Lee County Sports Development office arranged an extensive survey-based study on spring training attendees in February and March of 2018. The results are in from the almost 1,200 interviews in a 56 page report, and the findings attempt to estimate the economic impact of non-residents attending local spring training baseball games.

Total spring training attendees for both stadiums reached 276,458, with about 75% being visitors or about 208,000. Over 80,000 of them only visit Lee County during spring training, and over 100,000 say their primary reason for their trip to Fort Myers was to attend spring training activities. Most respondents said spring training was the primary reason they first traveled to Lee County on this visit or several years ago.

These travelers attending spring training spend almost $69 million while visiting. About $12 million was spent inside the ball parks, with $57 million spent in other areas of Lee County outside the ball park. Of these monies spent outside the ball park, three major categories accounted for most of the expenditures. Approximately $18 million was spent on lodging, 14 million on food/beverage, and slightly over $9 million on shopping.

The $69 million of spending directly supported 940 jobs, $22 million in household income, $2.5 million in local tax revenues, and $4.8 million in state revenues.

Who are these people?

jet blue park, fort myers, spring training imoact
Jet Blue Park, Spring Training Home of the Boston Red Sox. Photos courtesy of The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel.

The report also provided information on demographics of the spring training fans which may be surprising, or might not, depending on how closely a reader follows local spring training, and baseball in general. Fans reported strong team allegiances with about 40% indicating being Red Sox fans, 30% being Twins fans, and 30% indicating no allegiance to either team. Over 90% indicated they were casual baseball fans or greater, which makes common sense. Why spend the time or money to attend a game if not a fan? It does raise questions about the 10% non-fans who must have been dragged to the games by friends and family.

The attendees average age was 60. They attend in a group averaging slightly over 3 people, with an average income of about $107,000. About 27% of attendees are traveling with children under age 18, so the stands are not entirely full of seniors. Of no surprise is that 37% of those going to JetBlue Park come from New England and 60% going to CenturyLink Sports Complex are from the Midwest. Leading states for each group are Massachusetts and Minnesota respectively.

Visit Profile

About 50% of spring training attendees indicated that spring training was their primary reason for their trip. Of those who attended that own a home in the area, 50% said spring training was at least an important factor in their decision to purchase property. For anyone wondering why ticket availability can be tight, about 60% of those attending said they purchased game tickets before arriving in the Fort Myers area. Also, the report showed that 20-25% bought tickets locally before game day.

Attendees on average spend about five nights in the area. Twins fans tend to stay in the area longer than Red Sox fans on their trips. The fans average attending 2.5 games so the visit or trip is not a single game experience for most. About 70% of those attending stay in paid accommodations, with the rest staying with friends, family or in their own home. Most stay overnight in Fort Myers, (48%) with Fort Myers Beach the #2 location at 13% overall, with only 10% of attendees staying outside of Lee County. Almost half the fans arrive in the area by airplane (48%) with personal vehicle slight below at 43%. Most others arrive by rental vehicle or RV.

The Crystal Ball

Attendees indicated a history of attending games in Fort Myers with 40% first attending games between 2005 and 2017. This suggests spring training baseball is a draw or influence creating repeat visitors. They also show a strong intent to return with 67% reporting definitely or very probably will return next year for spring training games, more than 50% say they will return next year for trips not related to spring training. An even higher percentage of fans or about 67% indicated an intent to return to Fort Myers beyond 2018.

Average expenditures per day of about $160 per fan make spring training fans high quality and important visitors to the future of many businesses. So just a brief review of this data is a real eye opener, especially for the those who do not follow baseball very closely. The $69 million area impact for primarily the month of March each year, brings a whole new meaning to the baseball umpire’s declaration before each game, of “Play Ball!”