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2016 a record year for sports tourism in Lee County

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Lee County hosted a record number of 139 amateur sporting events in 2016, generating its highest year on record in terms of economic impact. According to figures released from Lee County Sports Development, the year generated $67.1 million in direct visitor spending, a 9 percent increase from the previous year.

Hosting 24 additional events in 2016, the year brought 147,463 sports visitors to Lee County, resulting in 157,079 hotel room nights sold. The figures were announced at a recent meeting of the Lee County Tourist Development Council.

“Lee County continues to serve as a leading destination within the sports tourism industry, bringing a variety of amateur sporting events to the members of our community and greatly impacting our local economy,” said Commissioner Cecil Pendergrass, who serves as the Lee Board of County Commissioners’ liaison to the Tourist Development Council and chairs the TDC.

“The past year had the highest direct impact numbers in history, surpassing the record-breaking impact numbers of 2014,” said Jeff Mielke, executive director of Lee County Sports Development. “Strategic partnerships and the increase in events hosted in our region were key to creating a successful year for Lee County, also generating the second-highest numbers in hotel room nights and event attendance in our history.”

Among the highlights from 2016:

  • July was the highest hitting month of the year in regards to hotel room nights, event attendance and direct economic impact. Amateur baseball was a home run for Lee County, with Perfect Game events serving as 12 of the 15 events hosted in the month of July. Additional events included the East Coast Finals for the North American Roller Hockey Championships (NARCh) and the USA Netball 2016 National Championship event, the first Netball event hosted in Lee County. The month resulted in 37,590 hotel room nights, a combined total of 28,931 participants and spectators, and $17.3 million in direct economic impact.
  • October 2016 brought in an all-time high in this month’s history with 16,657 hotel room nights. October included Lee County Sports Development’s announcement of a new global softball development initiative between USA Softball, World Baseball and Softball Confederation (WBSC) and European Softball Federation (ESF) to bring European players and coaches to the U.S. during the off-season for training.
  • November was the second-best month of the year, with 26,455 hotel room nights and $12.3 million in direct impact. Events included Roy Hobbs World Series, Senior Softball-USA’s Winter National Championships, United States Specialty Sports Association (USSSA) National Convention and the return of Florida Half Century Softball.
  • December highlights include Lee County serving as the host of the annual U.S. Sports Congress, which attracted top-level decision makers from the world of amateur sports to the region. The event featured about 40 senior-level executives of sport governing bodies that represent tens of thousands of amateur athletes who participate in their programs.

Lee County hosted 115 amateur sporting events in 2015, bringing 148,073 sports visitors, 152,400 hotel room nights sold and $61.5 million in direct visitor spending to Lee County.

Lee County Sports Development was created in 2003 to meet the growing demand for sports development in Lee County, and is recognized by the Florida Sports Foundation as one of the state’s 25 Regional Sports Commissions. The Lee County Sports Development office leads the recruitment and implementation of amateur and professional sports events and activities in Lee County, with the goal of providing economic impact to Lee County. Through local partnerships with Lee County Parks & Recreation and others, the Lee County Sports Development office provides services designed to address the needs of local, national and international sports entities including housing, access to venues, event management, transportation assistance, event promotion, marketing and local sponsorship opportunities. For more information, call 239-533-5273 or visit www.leegov.com/sports.

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