Tampa, FL — A coalition of Tampa Bay chambers, inclusive of Clearwater, St. Petersburg and Tampa learned from Senator Jack Latvala (R-Clearwater) that the future of the Florida Grapefruit League will be strengthened for long term success in maintaining a quality spring training season in Florida. The Senator reported that Governor Rick Scott has agreed to revise his Legislative Budget Request for 2013 to include $5 million in recurring funds from the State Economic Enhancement and Development Trust Fund for Major League Baseball Spring Training.
“Spring Training Programs in Florida create significant economic impact 12 months per year. Spring training helps drive our tourism economy. Every Spring Training facility in the State provides thousands of needed jobs in the communities where they are located”, said Bob Clifford, President/CEO of the Clearwater Regional Chamber. It is projected that spending $5 million to enhance these programs will generate approximately $750 million additional dollars for our state’s economy.
Major League Baseball began spring training in Florida decades ago. As recently as 15 years ago, every Major League team held its training in Florida. This year, for the first time, less than one-half of Major League Baseball teams train in Florida. “We must reverse this trend”, said Senator Latvala, “Spring Training Programs attracted roughly 1.6 million people to baseball facilities in Florida last year alone, sixty-two percent of which were tourists from other states. Clearly these programs are worth nurturing because of the economic impact they have on our state.”
The three Tampa Bay chambers have been working together to impact economic issues that are shared within the Tampa Bay area. The chambers are concerned that if Florida is not proactive in ensuring that we, at a minimum, maintain the teams that currently participate in spring training in Florida, we risk losing the entire industry to western states such as Arizona. Spring training is a long tradition for Florida that has been a strong economic driver for our state.
“Spring Training was started here in Tampa Bay and it remains a huge asset to our community. We are so excited to see the state create this State Program to help all Florida cities maintain and attract teams.” said Chris Steinocher, President/CEO of the St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce.
“Florida’s Grapefruit League is a strong economic engine and a state treasure. It is vital that we preserve its place in Florida’s future and keep our teams in their rightful hometowns,” said Bob Rohrlack, president and CEO, Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce.
It is the desire of the chambers that Florida begins to establish a sound plan to establish a strong infrastructure to keep teams here and foster increased recruitment to bring teams back to Florida. Establishing this recurring fund from the State Economic Enhancement and Development Trust Fund for Major League Baseball Spring Training is a good start in establishing that infrastructure.
We are grateful to Senator Latvala and his long term commitment to keep Major League Baseball teams training in Florida cities and the continued work he is doing in the legislature to ensure long term stability for this effort.
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