Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

In Sports Tourism, Growth

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

In Sports Tourism, Growth

Article excerpt


Capitalizing on the concept of "sports performance" took off during the Great Recession, as sports and economic development groups began working together to grow sports tourism in the Bradenton area.

Efforts to grow an amateur sports industry had been fragmented before 2009, when venues such as the IMG Academy, the for-profit, private sports training school in Bradenton, invested in land and secured funding that would allow it to host events and team training.

Sports events generated $72 million last year in visitor spending here, a group of panelists told the Manatee County Tiger Bay Club on Thursday, and a concern is managing growth when challenges such as how to provide enough hotel rooms remain.

"We have recently turned down two events because we didn't have enough beds for them to have a successful event," said Antonio Saviano, director of sports at Premier Sports Campus, 145 acres of sports fields built in 2011 in Lakewood Ranch.

Saviano and three others spoke at the Pier 22 restaurant in Bradenton about the economic impact of sports. Other speakers included Sharon Hillstrom, president of the Bradenton Area Economic Development Corporation, Bob Whitford, operations manager of the Suncoast Aquatics Nature Center Associates, and Chris Ciaccio, vice president of marketing and outreach at IMG Academy.

State and county money has bolstered this growth in recent years, with the expectation that the venues it supports track visitor spending. Manatee and Sarasota counties paid for the construction of the Nathan Benderson Park lake and continue to fund its operational costs. More than $10 million in state money, and a small amount of private funds, have been allocated for the multipurpose park's construction projects. …

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