Florida’s Sports Industry Represented at Annual Florida Sport Summit
The Florida Sports Foundation hosted its 2021 Florida Sports Summit on November 8-10 at the Hammock Beach Resort in Palm Coast.
More than 120 sports professionals were in attendance, including staff members from Florida Sports Industry Partners, Sports Events Rights Holders and Florida Sports Foundation.
Individual meetings between the Industry Partners and the Rights Holders were held to further strengthen Florida’s $57.4 billion sports industry that provides 580,000 jobs and encourages the world to Come Play In Florida.
“I had a lot of great sessions and meaningful meetings with some groups that should lead to some new events for us in Panama City Beach,” said Chris O’Brien, Director of Sports Marketing, Panama City Beach CVB.
The Summit also featured events away from the conference rooms allowing attendees to establish more personal relationships. The Sports Gold Rush Games, held on a grassy area between the Hammock Beach Resort and the Atlantic Ocean, offered friendly competition with impressive views. A visit to Marineland, one of Florida’s oldest attractions, also gave those in attendance an opportunity to learn more about the natural setting of the host area in Palm Coast and Flagler County.
“Florida is amazing!” Eric Carlyle, CEO – Compete Sports Diversity, who was also a guest speaker. “We are in the process of adding more events in Florida – all because of your Summit. I think Palm Coast may be one of Florida’s best kept secrets.”
“Affording the opportunity to host event planners and rights holders in the State of Florida during the annual Summit is an incredible experience for us at the Foundation,” said Liese Abili Vice President, Sports Development, Florida Sports Foundation. “Our Florida industry partners appreciate the opportunity to build, maintain and grow sustainable relations in the sports industry, and we are happy to be that vehicle to drive this forward.”
A highlight of the annual Summit was the presentation of the Florida Sports Industry Partner Awards during the Larry Pendleton Awards Dinner. These awards recognize Sports Industry Partners’ contribution to the State of Florida’s $57.4 billion sports industry.
Small Market Venue of the Year
Wiregrass Ranch Sports Campus (Pasco County)
This state-of-the-art venue opened its doors in August 2020 and has since hosted amateur events from several National Governing Bodies, such as USA Volleyball, USA Gymnastics, Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) Basketball, AAU Volleyball, Florida High School Athletic Association, National Federation of State High School Associations, Florida Senior Games, Special Olympics, and U.S. Club Soccer. It is the only venue its kind in the Tampa Bay market.
Mid-Market Venue of the Year
Panama City Beach Sports Complex (Panama City Beach CVB)
Opened in 2019, the 200-acre Panama City Beach Sports Complex is owned by Visit Panama City Beach and managed by Sports Facility Management. Between October 2020 and October 2021, the facility hosted 48 events with more than 2,500 teams competing. One of the first facilities to reopen in 2020, the multipurpose complex brought in 95,000 players and spectators, 85,000+ hotel room nights and more than $85 million economic impact. The venue hosted a variety of tournaments including baseball, softball, soccer, lacrosse, football, flag football and adult softball.
Large Market Venue of the Year
Okeeheelee Park (West Palm Beach)
The 1,700-acre park is a West Palm Beach landmark, and one of the most versatile venues in Palm Beach County. Okeeheelee Park includes eight tennis courts, six pickleball courts, a grass volleyball court, five lighted baseball fields, four lighted softball fields and four lighted multipurpose fields ideal for soccer, rugby, lacrosse, and football and more. The park not only contains a 27-hole public championship golf course; it also has an 18-hole course for disc golf. Five expansive water-skiing lakes allow for professional water-skiing competition. The site also features a premier equestrian venue, the Jim Brandon Equestrian Center.
Small Market Event of the Year
Association of Pickleball Professionals Series Championship (Punta Gorda/Englewood Beach CVB)
The Association of Pickleball Professionals (APP) is the first sanctioned USA Pickleball Tour for professionals and amateurs throughout the United States, Canada, and Europe. This Punta Gorda Open Series, held at the PicklePlex of Punta Gorda, included 700 participants, generating a $2M economic impact and over 2500 hotel room nights. Participants came from Afghanistan, Canada, the United Kingdom, Japan, and Zimbabwe. The event generated over 1 million views on Inside World Pickleball’s live streaming broadcast with 200 hours of live action. It reached 50 countries worldwide and social media related to the event produced more than 4 million impressions.
Mid-Market Event of the Year
Ironman Florida (Panama City Beach CVB)
The Visit Panama City Beach IRONMAN Florida and Visit PCB IRONMAN 70.3, held November 5, 2020, was one of only 5 Full IRONMAN events to occur in 2020. IRONMAN events featured 1,978 athletes, 1,500 volunteers and over 5,500 family and fans attend the week. The event resulted in direct spending of more than $6.8 million an economic impact of over $10 million, 27, 607 visitor days, and 18,000 room nights
Large Market Event of the Year
Super Bowl LV (Tampa Bay Sports)
The Week of Super Bowl LV stretched from January 31 through February 7, 2021. Even with a limited capacity crowd, the game drew 26,988 fans that provided 64,192 room nights to the area and an economic impact of more than $32 million.
Best Awarded Event of the Year
Special Olympics (Kissimmee Sports)
The 2022 Special Olympics is projected to bring 6,000 athletes and coaches, 70,000 spectators, and produce 75,000 room nights for the Kissimmee/Osceola County area. The event will be centralized at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex and Osceola Heritage Park.
Larry Pendleton Leadership Award
Awarded to an outstanding executive in the Florida sports community who has demonstrated exemplary leadership skills during the award year.
George Linley, Palm Beach County Sports Commission
George Linley led the Palm Beach County Sports Commission through eight consecutive years of room night growth, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. Sports related room nights in The Palm Beaches have grown 30% during the past six (6) years (180,009 in 2014) under George’s leadership. George and his team at the Sports Commission fostered unprecedented growth in sports tourism and created a powerful sports landscape for The Palm Beaches. The Sports Commission has recently hosted some of the nation’s largest amateur sports events, such as the National Hockey Festival (world’s largest field hockey tournament), American Youth Soccer Organization National Games, USA Baseball National Team Championships, and Perfect Game’s World Championship. The Sports Commission played a pivotal role with the expansion of Major League Baseball (MLB) Spring Training in The Palm Beaches and the development of The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches. This effort has transformed Palm Beach County into Florida’s Baseball Capital. In 2019, George was recognized as the nation’s “Sports Tourism Executive of the Year”, which was presented by the National Association of Sports Commissions.
The 2022 Florida Sports Summit will be held in Palm Beach County.