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The Tampa Tribune: Tony Villamil: Pro sports facilities provide positive return on taxpayers’ investment

Monday, February 16, 2015

Contrary to recent news reports, professional sports facilities in Florida have positive economic impacts, attracting thousands of national and overseas visitors and competitors to the state each year.

Sports facilities are located at the heart of sports, entertainment and tourism clusters with attractions that ensure visitors extend their stay and spend tourist dollars on hotels, meals, transportation, entertainment and retail purchases.

These expenditures by overnight visitors positively impact employment, household income and overall economic activity in the state. Out-of-state visitors also generate additional sales taxes, hotel bed taxes and other public revenues.

Part of the revenues generated by professional sports facilities are reinvested in the form of stadium improvements and new construction that generate jobs and additional income for Florida residents.

As an example, Daytona International Speedway is reinvesting revenues generated by the facility into a $400 million renovation and modernization of the world’s most famous racetrack.

Each year, thousands of competitors, race fans and tourists from across the world visit Daytona International Speedway, including high-net-worth car owners and wealthy investors, thus yielding significant business activity and supporting economic growth in Florida.

In essence, Daytona International Speedway is an example of “exportable” professional sports entertainment, bringing income to Florida by providing a top-of-the-line service.

The popularity of professional sporting events in Florida, nationally and internationally, has been integral to the growth of the state’s economy.

In addition to the fans and competitors who decide to relocate to Florida, the sports, entertainment and tourism clusters also encourage companies to expand or relocate here.

Furthermore, other events held at professional sports facilities play a significant role in attracting and retaining other industries, adding to the tourism and entertainment portfolio. If not for major sports venues, “spillover” impacts and supply relationships with businesses that provide food, transportation, technology, cleaning and other services in the state would not be supported.

On top of household income growth, these businesses generate different streams of tax revenue that would not otherwise be generated.

The positive impacts of the growth of Florida’s sports, entertainment and tourism industries are further amplified by the global publicity of sporting events and their facilities through national and international television broadcasts and exposure generated through radio, print and online media. This publicity elevates the awareness and reputation of the events, contributing to the branding of the state as a professional sports leader in the United States.

Professional sports facilities also generate intangible benefits, such as the state’s point of pride and identity.

When all factors are considered in the evaluation of professional sports facilities, one can conclude that supporting sports venues through performance-based incentive programs is a positive investment for the state and integral to enhancing the quality of living of Florida residents.

Tony Villamil is principal of The Washington Economics Group and former director for Tourism, Trade and Economic Development of Florida.

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