The second annual Labor Day soccer tournament at the Premier Sports Campus in Lakewood Ranch brought in approximately 19,000 amateur athletes and fans, generating more than $13 million in economic impact to the region. More than 3,500 cars delivered players from 328 soccer teams from all over the state of Florida to compete in 400-plus games over the three-day period.
The event’s growth over last year’s numbers did not escape the attention of local businesses.
“The tournament this year was noticeably bigger and better than last year,” said Rob Ferguson, corporate director of sales for Kinsman Hotels. “Normally we have a great deal of room pick up at the last minute, but this year we basically sold out two months prior to the event at the Holiday Inn and Fairfield Inn and Suites in Lakewood Ranch. The teams were great for the hotel as they not only rented rooms but purchased food and beverage from us and most of the restaurants in the area.
“Normally holiday weekends are difficult for the inland hotels as they seem to fill with leisure travelers after the beach hotels,” Ferguson said, “so we really appreciate these tournaments over those slow dates.”
Sports make up one of the fastest growing segments of tourism in the Manatee and Sarasota region. Visitors spent nearly $62 million in Sarasota County last year and generated more than $42 million in economic impact, according to Visit Sarasota County (VSC).
“We are thrilled with the success of Premier Sports Campus and the recent Labor Day soccer tournament,” said Nicole Rissler, director of sports for the Sarasota County Sports Commission,
a division of VSC. “In a traditionally slower part of the year, this was a huge boost for our local hotels and restaurants.”
In Manatee County, 44,000 sports-related visitors stayed in accommodations last year — nearly 9 percent of the total tourist count, according to the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau (BACVB), and their total economic impact was $60 million.
“The sports business has been a huge boost to the destination, particularly during our off-peak tourism season,” said Elliott Falcione, executive director of the BACVB. “Those visiting teams and their families are staying in our hotels, eating at our restaurants and shopping in our stores, which is vital to our local economy and job growth. We couldn’t be happier!”
This year, thanks to a $1.1 million investment, eight fields at the sports campus were lighted, extending play into the nighttime hours as needed. “The lights make us very unique in that we are the only local facility that is privately owned that has playing fields with lights,” said PSC Director Tim Mulqueen. “We are now able to host national events – events that are massive in terms of economic impact and exposure to the area like the Labor Day tournament – which we could not have secured without lights.”
The team winner at the local level was the U13 team from Lakewood Ranch, coached by Mulqueen, who was not only proud of his team, but of the tournament and facility too. “People loved the fields and the location off the highway. The games started on time, and there was better traffic control and parking this year,” Mulqueen said. “Offsite offerings helped enhance the tournament experience. Everyone really enjoyed the choice of restaurants, shopping opportunities on Main Street, and the movies.”
With more tournaments and events, the PSC promises to continue to stimulate sales for local businesses, as well as driving the need for new ones.
“The Premier Sports Campus in Lakewood Ranch is a key player in the development and success of the Sports Performance sector in Manatee County,” said Sharon Hillstrom, president and CEO of the Manatee Economic Development Corporation. “The significant economic impact from this event is another strong indicator that sports performance continues to be a strong economic driver in our local and regional economy.”
The Premier Sports Campus at Lakewood Ranch is a multi-purpose facility that is home to 22 full-sized, mixed-use fields for soccer, lacrosse and other amateur sports, and features Celebration grass and underground irrigation. The complex is used for amateur and professional top-flight and world-class sporting tournaments, events, camps and clinics and is located in Lakewood Ranch – the 8,500-acre, award-winning master-planned community in Sarasota and Manatee counties on the West Coast of Florida. www.lakewoodranch.com