Sports to pump $32 billion into state's economy


Published: Thursday, January 26, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 25, 2006 at 10:52 p.m.
Sports and recreation will infuse $32 billion into the state's economy in 2006, half of that figure from golf alone, according to a report that will be presented today to a state House committee.
The 93-page report was requested by lawmakers to determine the value of baseball spring training in the state to prevent further defections from the Grapefruit League to Arizona's Cactus League. The report says sports produce $2.1 billion in tax revenue for state and local governments.
"We did this study to see what is the economic impact in sports, with baseball in mind," said state Rep. Nancy Detert, R-Venice, who chairs the House Tourism Committee. "While baseball is a good money generator, the surprise of this report is the biggest money raiser seems to be golf and tennis events."
Spring training, however, came up big too. It generated $453 million in a six-week period in 2004 in the 18 Florida communities where teams train in late February and most of March, according to The Washington Economics Group Inc., a Coral Gables firm that did the study for the Florida Sports Foundation.
Four PGA tournaments happen during that period, too. The study estimated that 3.3 percent of the 77 million visitors to Florida in 2004 played golf during their trip. That's about 2.5 million. About a third of those came specifically to play golf.
"If I'm shocked about anything, probably the number they came up with in golf is pretty dominant," said Larry Pendleton, the Florida Sports Foundation's executive director.
Nearly one in 12 domestic tourists to the state cited some form of outdoor recreation as their primary reason for visiting, with nearly one in five claiming golf as their foremost activity.
Further, the sports economy accounted for 434,000 jobs and a payroll of $12.9 billion. And the numbers didn't include motorsports, another big tourist attraction.
And then there are nine major league sports franchises doing business in Florida. They are the second largest economic entity producing tax dollars, approximately $143 million for state and local governments.
Detert believes the report proves using tax dollars for government-owned facilities to keep big league teams in the state is good business.
She also indicated the report might benefit the Florida Marlins, who are threatening to leave the state after failing in several attempts to win state backing for a new ballpark in Miami-Dade County. By statute, the state can only help eight teams with stadium funding.
"We fund seven teams and the Marlins are already one of them," she said, referring to modifications to Dolphins Stadium the state helped finance so it could accommodate baseball. "They're controversial because in essence they want to be funded twice."
But state Rep. Marco Rubio, a Miami Republican, becomes speaker in 2007 and the debate about a new Marlins ballpark is likely to resurface then.
"We'll see what he (Rubio) wants to do with that issue next year," Detert said.
Florida's $57 billion tourism industry is also favorably impacted by those headed into the state for sporting purposes.
Along with Walt Disney World and other well-known theme parks around the state, many visitors come because of the sports attractions and opportunities afforded by Florida's weather such as softball and fishing tournaments.
But the figures don't include motorsports since that industry didn't provide its figures. NASCAR's Daytona 500, Pepsi 400 and Ford 400 each bring more than 100,000 fans to the state.
"Not only do we have NASCAR here, but probably another 40 tracks in the state that do motorsports," Pendleton said Wednesday.
It was the first economic study looking at the impact of sports in the state since 1990 when the figure was $16 billion. It included fishing, softball and tennis tournaments, pari-mutuel wagering at horse and dog tracks, recreational ownership of horses and money spent on apparel and equipment.
Florida also hosts five college bowl games each year and three cities have already staged a dozen of the first 39 Super Bowls. Miami has been picked to hold the 2007 and 2010 Super Bowls while Tampa has the 2009 game.
On the Net: www.flasports.com

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