Sports Tourism: New Growth Driver for Sarasota


SARASOTA, FLORIDA, February 27th 2017 – The economic impact of sports tourism in Sarasota and the tailwinds it provide to the property market promises to get bigger this year and further into the future. World competitions in rowing this year and an international sailing conference in 2018 are already calendared in Sarasota, while the Atlanta Braves are nearly certain to pitch their spring training camp in North Port starting in 2019.

All these developments raise the prospect of the county’s sports tourism reaching even higher levels after a brilliant performance last year. In 2016, Sarasota hosted 135 sports events, a 20 percent gain from last year and generated an economic impact of $178.6 million, a 23 percent increase from 2015.

Water Sports Make Waves

Sports Tourism: New Growth Driver for Sarasota

This year, a $25 million economic impact is expected from the World Rowing Championship alone. This event is set at the Nathan Benderson Park from September 24 to October 1, 2017 and is expected to draw 40,000 visitors and generate domestic and international media exposure.

Aside from its direct economic benefits, extensive marketing mileage could be also drawn when Sarasota hosts the World Sailing Annual Conference and its Offshore Racing Congress and the Yacht Racing Forum on November 2‒11, 2018. This gathering, the first time to be held in the U.S., will bring together over 400 delegates from more than 100 countries. It creates an opportunity too for the Sarasota Sports Commission to promote the county as a future destination for international yachting competitions.

Braves Anchor in North Port

Sustaining the expansion of sports tourism, which is high on Sarasota Board of County Commissioners’ priority list, also gained further traction from the Atlanta Braves’ formal announcement in January to move its spring training camp in North Port.

Contract terms and agreements with the ball club are expected to be finalized this spring, following negotiations that started in March last year. Updated plans for the project call for the construction of a $75 million‒$80 million sports complex on about 70 acres at Thomas Ranch along U.S. 41 near the West Villages, now a market hotspot for Sarasota homes for sale.

Public‒Private Drive

The planned complex will have direct access to U.S. 41 and the West Villages Parkway. Its facilities will include a 6,500-seat stadium and team clubhouse. Likewise on the drawing boards of the complex’s training facilities are six practice baseball fields, six multi-use fields and space for the Atlanta Braves’ sports medicine academy.

Funding will come from public as well as private sources, with local officials hoping $20 million from state grants, $22 million from tourist development tax and $4 million‒$5 million from the City of North Port. Fund contributions will also be provided by the Atlanta Braves and the developers of West Villages.

West Villages’ Centerpiece

These developers, which include Mattamy Homes, are notably active participants in the county’s negotiations with the Braves. The general manager of West Villages, Marty Black, said that the sports complex will become a centerpiece of their development’s future entertainment center and will complement their planned downtown Main Street as well.

West Villages, recently ranked as one of the top master-planned developments in the U.S., is being developed on 11,000 acres. It is programmed for 20,000 residences plus 3 million square feet of commercial space which definitely stand to draw strength from Sarasota’s flourishing sports tourism.