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Sports pumps $13 million into Lee economy

August 30, 2013
Special to the Breeze ( , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

Despite near-record rainfall, the Lee County Sports Development Office experienced historic economic results through amateur sporting events held in Lee County's five county-owned complexes during April, May and June 2013.

The 30 amateur sports events held in Lee during this three-month period brought in 34,904 room nights sold with a direct economic impact totaling more than $13.3 million.

"Sporting events are a key driver for tourism in Lee County during the off-season months when it can be more challenging to draw northerners to Southwest Florida," said Tamara Pigott, executive director of the Lee County Visitors & Convention Bureau. "While they're in Lee County, the athletes, coaches and families fill our hotel rooms, eat in local restaurants, visit our attractions and shop in our stores, all the while helping ensure that the 52,000 people who are employed locally in the tourism industry have jobs during these slower months. The exposure to our region also encourages repeat visitation among travelers who might not otherwise have given us a try."

During the month of April, sporting events such as the National College Roller Hockey Champion-ships held at the Fort Myers Skatium helped fill 7,252 hotel room nights and generate more than $3.3 million in direct economic impact. With the return of the popular Perfect Game Memorial Day Classic and non-traditional, amateur sports events, May was an historic month generating 16,132 room nights sold and a direct economic impact of more than $5.4 million.

In June, amateur sports generated 11,521 room nights sold and direct economic impact of $4.5 million.

"In addition to events held during spring and early summer, July was also a successful month for sports tourism. July's Perfect Game World Series has grown to the point of expansion into Charlotte County, as we exhausted use of every Lee County facility," said Jeff Mielke, executive director of Lee County Sports Develop-ment. "Roller hockey in Fort Myers and the state BMX championships in Cape Coral are also among the growing non-traditional sports activities that drew visitors to Lee County this summer, and helped contribute to the economic impact that we experienced during these wet and traditionally slower months for tourism and spending."

Also in July, more than 300 youth soccer players with Futbol Club Barcelona youth program, their coaches and families converged on JetBlue Park. This is the first year the club, among the highest profile soccer groups worldwide, has staged a camp in Fort Myers.

Other non-traditional sports events held this year included the National High School Gymnastics Association's Girls National Championships at the Estero Recreation Center, USA Badminton Masters Championships at the Estero Recreation Center and the Florida Firefighter Games at multiple locations locally.

Operated by Lee County Parks and Recreation, the county's five county-owned baseball complexes play host to more than 200 days of amateur baseball tournaments a year when they aren't being used for spring training games. The estimated economic impact of these events is $50 million annually.



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