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Sports Tourism For Lakeland Being Considered

If you build it, they will come. That’s what Mr. Keith Acton and some others believe about sports tourism in Lakeland.

At a recent Economic Development Council meeting, the topic was brought up by EDC member Keith Acton. In the meeting Mr. Acton requested that the board submit a request to the Board of Commissioners (BOC) to issue a Request for Proposal (RFP) to obtain a feasibility study to determine what type of events or sports would best benefit Lakeland to stimulate the local economy.   

According to Mr. Acton, it was a relevant conversation to have due to the recent discussions about commercial development around the I-40 interchange area. He added with the upcoming retail and dining options coming online at both The Lakeland District and Lakeland Town Square, he felt the city needs to explore the economic benefits of hosting sports tourism events in Lakeland. “These sports events would really help our local businesses,” Mr. Acton told Lakeland Currents.

Keith Acton being sworn in by Commissioner Wesley Wright to the EDC in 2019. File photo.

When asked specifically about the economic impact of sports tourism, and how that could benefit Lakeland, Mr. Acton cited a May 12, 2022, article from Sports Destination Management. “In the article the authors show that overnight travelers spend an average of $359 per person (per trip) for sports tourism compared to an average of only $79 spent by normal day trippers. That data came from the 2019 State of the Industry Report prepared by the Sports Events and Tourism Association,” he said.

“Sports tourism for events like aquatic events, volleyball, soccer, dance, baseball, and cheerleading helps generate income and job opportunities for the event venue, local restaurants, and area hotels,” Mr. Acton said. “Keeping this money in our community helps generate tax revenue that will benefit the city.” 

Vice Mayor Michelle Dial, who serves as the liaison for the Parks and Recreation Board, said she agrees that sports tourism is a topic worth vetting. “Being the champion for Lakeland kids, sports and recreation opportunities, I fully support determining the feasibility of this idea,” Ms. Dial said. “We should be thinking out of the box when it comes to economic development opportunities for our city.”

The topic is expected to be on an upcoming BOC agenda for discussion.