City of Plantation and Charlotte County win Excellence in Sport Tourism Awards
Sport and Recreation is a major contributor to Florida’s economy with activities providing over $57 billion in total economic output, creating over 580,000 jobs and attracting nearly 16 million non-resident visitors to Florida. The contributions of Florida’s county and municipal Parks & Recreation Departments to Sport Tourism provide the maintenance and infrastructure to support numerous annual sporting and recreational activities throughout the state of Florida.
The Florida Sports Foundation presented the Fourth Annual Excellence in Sport Tourism Mid to Large Sport Market Award to the City of Plantation Parks and Recreation Department and the Small Sport Market Award to the Charlotte County Community Services Department at the Annual Florida Recreation and Parks Association (FRPA) Conference in Orlando.
“The two award winning departments have done an outstanding job of using their local resources and innovative strategies to bring out-of-state visitors to their areas for sports opportunities,” said Florida Sports Foundation Angela Suggs. “Their efforts not only benefit their communities with economic benefits, but the entire state of Florida. Once the athletes and their families see all Florida has to offer, they will return to discover more opportunities.”
Nominated by Broward County Sports Development, the City of Plantation Parks and Recreation Department consists of four community centers, 42 parks, 44 athletic fields, 37 tennis courts, six Pickleball courts, the Plantation Equestrian Center, two Olympic size pools and the 231-acre Plantation Preserve Golf Course.
Under the leadership of Parks and Recreation Director, Ernest Burkeen, the department proudly employs 246 staff members which have implemented innovative strategies to market its programs that support sport tourism.
In 2016, the department purchased a drone to supply aerial photos and video in high definition used in promoting, advertising and marketing through social media and other outlets. The Athletics Division Facebook page, with nearly 1,000 followers, interacts with tens of thousands of people weekly through engaging content. In addition, the Athletics Division sends out a weekly email blast to approximately 200 local businesses, restaurants and hotels, keeping them aware of upcoming events. The department also hosted a roundtable of local hotel managers to foster partnerships when preparing for large scale events in the community.
Another component of the department’s commitment to sport tourism was the renovation of underutilized roller hockey rinks, converting them into six Pickleball courts. Since the courts opened in January 2017, the department has hosted three Pickleball tournaments. Throughout 2016, the City of Plantation Parks and Recreation Department hosted 83 large-scale events within their Athletics, Aquatics, Equestrian, Golf and Tennis Divisions, attracting over 200,000 visitors to create a direct economic impact of nearly $29.5 million for the community.
The Small Sport Market Award winner, the Charlotte County Community Services Department, nominated by Punta Gorda/Englewood Beach Visitor & Convention Bureau (VCB), has been a vital partner in the success of the VCB’s sport tourism mission. Since April of 2016, Charlotte County Parks and Recreation facilities have served as the host venues for over 75% of sports tourism events supported and hosted by the Punta Gorda/Englewood Beach VCB.
The department oversees over 65 parks throughout Charlotte County and manages the maintenance and operations of 10 heavily utilized, year round athletic parks and facilities to accommodate local leagues, community events and sport tourism events/tournaments. These annual events include the Snowbird Baseball Classic, the Charlotte Harbor Regatta and the Tampa Bay Rays Spring Training.
Under the direction of Tommy Scott, Director of Community Services, the department has upgraded many of the facilities to elevate opportunities to host more high level events. The Charlotte Sports Park recently received $27 million in upgrades to better accommodate the Tampa Bay Rays for Spring Training and the Florida State League’s Charlotte Stone Crabs. The park is a vital component in attracting youth baseball tournaments and NCAA Division I teams to the Snowbird Baseball Classic.
The department added another collegiate level baseball field at In North Charlotte Regional Park and other upgrades including college level scoreboards, expanded dugouts, upgraded batting cages and improved lighting and sound.
The renewal of a local one cent sales tax has allowed Community Services to propose several facility enhancements over the next few years including a new 30,000 sq. ft. gymnasium with dedicated Pickleball courts, multi-purpose fields and a 50-meter pool. Improvements are also scheduled for Ann Dever Memorial Park at Oyster Creek, Harold Avenue Park and Port Charlotte Beach Park.
Over the past year, Charlotte County Community Services hosted 16 events in eight different sports, in partnership with the VCB. The events were held at 10 different facilities managed by the department, generating over 21,000 hotel room nights for an estimated direct economic impact of $22 million.