CLEARWATER — This city that hosts a national softball tournament and high-profile powerboat races will now have the headquarters of a state sports agency's amateur arm to bolster sports tourism.
The Florida Sports Foundation in Tallahassee, a division of Enterprise Florida Inc., will open its first satellite office in Clearwater in January.
The move will save money by bringing the agency's amateur staff closer to host cities and venues where amateur sports events are held.
Clearwater leaders hope the move will help the city in its efforts to market itself as an amateur sports destination.
"It's just another example of how we're trying to promote sports tourism," said Mayor George Cretekos at a City Council work session last week.
The agency runs the Sunshine State Games and Florida International Senior Games and State Championships.
The Sunshine State Games — a wide variety of events including shooting, basketball, roller skating, swimming and lacrosse — are held around the state. The Senior Games will be held in Lee County this year.
The Sunshine Games date to 1980 while the Senior Games began in 1992. More than 12,000 athletes will compete this year in Senior and Sunshine State games.
"Being more centrally located will give (the foundation) staff greater ease in traveling and increase accessibility to . . . host communities and the athletes we serve," Stephen Rodriguez, the foundation's senior vice president, said in a news release. "Making the city of Clearwater our home will provide opportunities to offer more sports and events, some of which will be held in the outstanding facilities of Pinellas County."
The foundation will lease two offices on the second floor of the city's Long Center, a large recreation facility on Belcher Road. The foundation will pay $15,000 a year in rent to the city.
The agreement is for five years, said Kevin Dunbar, the city's Parks and Recreation director.
The foundation has been a "strong partner" with the city over the years, Dunbar said.
Parking has been a problem at the Long Center, but Dunbar said that the additional staff won't add to the woes. They'll have assigned spaces in staff parking away from the main parking areas, he said.
Charlie Frago can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 445-4159. You can follow him on Twitter @CharlieFrago