The City of Sarasota Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources Department and City of Tallahassee Parks and Recreation earned the Third Annual Excellence in Sports Tourism Awards, presented by the Florida Sports Foundation (FSF), and awarded Wednesday at the Florida Recreation and Park Association (FRPA) Annual Conference in Orlando.

The awards, broken into Mid-Large Sport Market and Small Sport Market Categories, recognize the unparalleled contributions of Florida’s county and municipal Parks & Recreation Departments to Sport Tourism. County and municipal governments provide the maintenance and infrastructure to support the numerous sporting and recreational activities occurring annually throughout the state of Florida. Recipients were nominated by Florida’s Regional Sports Commissions, defined as the Large Sport Market and the Small Market.

“These two awardees represent how partnerships positively affect our state,” said FSF President, John Webb. “Both used their abundances of local resources to contribute to Florida’s $44 billion sports industry. “This award program was developed, in partnership with the FRPA, to recognize such creative contributions to the Sports Development and Sport Tourism effort within their community. “

Award Winners

ID from left to right: Rob Wells, Sarasota Sports Commission; Carolyn Brown, Sarasota County Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources Department; Ashley Edwards City of Tallahassee Parks and Recreation; Stephen Rodriguez, Florida Sports Foundation

Nominated by the Sarasota County Sports Commission, the Sarasota County Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources Department, under the leadership of Carolyn Brown, proudly employs 54 staff members to oversee the 113 athletic fields that are regularly utilized by over 100 user groups. Day in and day out, the department strives to ensure the highest standard of excellence for the maintenance of its parks, and has received various accolades for such service, including the Florida Sports Foundation Venue of the Year Award for Nathan Benderson Park.

Sarasota County’s Siesta Key Beach has been named top beach in America by Trip Advisor’s Travelers’ Choice in 2015 and America’s Best Beach in 2011 by Dr. Beach. This site hosted the 2015 Fiesta on Siesta Key Beach Volleyball tournament, which saw dozens of NCAA and NAIA teams compete, drawing a $560,000 direct economic impact. Over the past year, the department has worked to plan and open a new World Class BMX facility, which will host UCI World Cup Races, USA BMX National races, serve as an Olympic training facility and more.

Sarasota County hosted 79 various sporting events in 2015, bringing in a direct economic impact of more than $33 million to the community. This department continues to work in partnership with the Sarasota County Sports Commission to upgrade its facilities, attract events and host all levels of sport events, thus earning the 2016 Excellence in Sport Tourism Award for the Mid to Large Market category.

“The Florida Recreation and Park Association is pleased to partner with the Florida Sports Foundation to recognize the work of parks and recreation agencies who take pride in managing facilities and fields used to attract sports tourism to their communities and our state,” said Eleanor Warmack, Executive Director of the FRPA. “Their commitment to maintaining exceptional public spaces that are attractive to sports enthusiasts is a priority for these professionals and parks and recreation agencies across the State. Both of the award recipients are to be commended for taking their role in creating positive economic impact for their community a priority.”

The Small Sport Market Award Winner comes from the Big Bend of Florida and was nominated by the Tallahassee Sports Council. The City of Tallahassee Parks, Recreation and Neighborhood Affairs manages the largest inventory of facilities in Leon County, which directly creates on the largest impacts in sports tourism in the community. The department hosts sporting events that span all levels of interest and competition, from professional tennis to youth baseball, basketball, soccer, softball, swimming, gymnastics and an international Olympic qualifying Equestrian event. These facilities and the events they attract, play a significant role in the more than 72,000 visitors and nearly $32 million in visitor spending from sporting events in Leon County each year.

In 2015, City of Tallahassee worked in partnership with the Tallahassee Sports Council to host 24 events that attracted 14,019 visitors to the county, thus making this department directly involved in contributing approximately 19% of the total visitors to the area.

Some examples of these events were the American Softball Association (ASA) 16U-A Southern Nationals, USTA Tallahassee Tennis Challenger, 2015 Capital City Showcase, ATAC Long and Short Course Swimming Invitationals, Capital City Cup Gymnastics, USSSA Baseball, Red Hills International Horse Trials and Swamp Forest Trail Half Marathon and Marathon. These events contributed over $7.9 million economic impact to Leon County in 2015.

The Florida Sports Foundation, the state’s lead sports promotion and development organization, works in conjunction with Florida’s 28 local sports commissions to bring more than 3,000 sports events and $44 billion in economic impact annually to the State. For more information about the Florida Sports Foundation and its programs. For more information about the Florida Recreation and Park Association, visit


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