Monday, July 16, 2018
Business

Tampa's tourism strategy pays off as city hosts its second Frozen Four

TAMPA — St. Petersburg has its beaches. Orlando has its theme parks. And Tampa — well, as Santiago Corrada put it, Tampa has its "blessings."

"We're blessed with some great physical assets," said Corrada, the CEO of Hillsborough County's tourism agency.

He doesn't mean natural assets, however. He means man-made assets such as Raymond James Stadium, the Sun Dome and Amalie Arena, which is hosting the Frozen Four this week.

They're big venues meant for big crowds that are basically "begging" for the city to host national sporting events, Corrada said, helping transform the city into a "sports destination."

"The sports market is a great market to bring fans to town, who will prolong their stay and spend money on our attractions," he said. "Our mission is to put heads in beds in our hotels and further economic development."

Pinellas' tourism strategy is built around its world-famous beaches. But the Tampa/Hillsborough area has to rely on other assets: Cuban culture, urban nightlife and, in recent years, sporting events.

The ability to host those events has become an essential element in Hillsborough County's strategy to attract tourist dollars from around the country. This week's Frozen Four is the second of five consecutive college sports championships that the city will host from 2015-19 — and the second Frozen Four the city has hosted since 2012.

As college hockey players duke it for the Division I Men's Ice Hockey Championships, Hillsborough County hopes to reap the economic benefits.

When Tampa first hosted the Frozen Four, tourists spent about $10 million in the county and booked about 15,000 hotel room nights, said Rob Higgins, executive director of the Tampa Bay Sports Commission. He expects this year's hockey tournament to produce similar numbers.

It's the job of Higgins and the sports commission to lure sporting events to Hillsborough, often by offering financial incentives. In fiscal year 2015, Higgins said those events resulted in more than 180,000 hotel visitor nights in Hillsborough, which includes last year's NCAA Women's Final Four basketball tournament.

The sports commission offered a seven-figure subsidy to the NCAA to lure the women's tournament last year, but Higgins would not disclose the incentive for this year's Frozen Four.

In the past decade the city has hosted a long list of NCAA events and is slated to host college sporting events through 2022. In 2009, for example, the city hosted the ACC Football Championship and the NCAA Women's Volleyball Championship. Next year, Raymond James Stadium will host the College Football Playoff National Championship. In 2019, Tampa will host the NCAA Women's Final Four for the third time in 11 years.

"I think we've continued to play an important role in the tourism strategy," Higgins said. "(Tampa's) got a really well-oiled, working tourism machine."

He looks for three main things when deciding what sporting events to bring to Tampa: economic impact, social impact and the exposure it will bring the city.

"It really portrays our community in a great light," Higgins said. "It's an exciting stage for our hometown to be on."

Especially when those events are broadcast nationally on ESPN. That exposure could introduce Tampa to potential tourists.

Higgins also sees the Frozen Four as a way to introduce college hockey to a state that doesn't have any Division I college programs of its own.

The Tampa Bay Lightning has already done its part to bring hockey fans to Tampa, appearing in two Stanley Cup finals and hoisting the cup in 2004. Tampa was the first city in the southeast to ever host the national college hockey tournament in its six-decade history.

Boston's Heidi Paulson is an avid college hockey fan who regularly attends the Frozen Four. She was skeptical when it was announced that Florida would host the 2012 tournament.

This time around, she has no reservations. She plans to walk the city's streets, enjoy its restaurants and bask in the sunshine while watching her favorite sport.

"We left the snow and the cold, and this is wonderful," she said Wednesday while watching the University of North Dakota practice at Amalie Arena.

The NCAA is into Tampa, too.

The city "takes it to the next level," said the Kristin Fasbender, the NCAA's director of championships and alliances.

There were NCAA officials, youth hockey players and local fans waiting to greet the hockey teams at the airport. When they arrived at the arena, there was a literal red carpet.

"We want to make sure they understand . . . there's a community that couldn't be more excited to have them here," Higgins said.

Tampa may be a "nontraditional" city for college hockey, Fasbender said. But when the sports commission first made its pitch for the 2012 Frozen Four, local officials made it clear that they wanted the college sport to find a new home in Tampa.

Two Frozen Fours later, Hills­borough is now starting to attract a number of youth hockey tournaments, Corrada said, which will produce its own economic benefit.

"Other cities look at ours as kind of model," he said.

Contact Sara DiNatale at [email protected] or (813) 226-3400. Follow @sara_dinatale.

Comments
Florida suspends payment to SunPass contractor until tolling system is fixed

Florida suspends payment to SunPass contractor until tolling system is fixed

The Florida Department of Transportation announced today that it will suspend all payments to the SunPass contractor until the electronic tolling system is fixed.In a letter sent to the president of Conduent State & Local Solutions, Inc., David Amori...
Updated: 2 hours ago
CVS employees call 911 on black woman trying to use a coupon

CVS employees call 911 on black woman trying to use a coupon

Couponing while black?Add it to the list.On Friday, a Chicago woman tried to use a coupon at CVS when a store employee told her the slip was fake and another worker called the police. The incident stands as the latest known example of racial profilin...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Amazonís Prime Day runs into snags swiftly

Amazonís Prime Day runs into snags swiftly

NEW YORK ó Amazonís website ran into some snags quickly Monday on its much-hyped Prime Day, an embarrassment for the tech company on the shopping holiday it created.Shoppers clicking on many Prime Day links got only an abashed-looking dog with the wo...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Amazon Prime Day: Now an opportunity for worker strikes, consumer protests around the world

Amazon Prime Day: Now an opportunity for worker strikes, consumer protests around the world

Amazon workers, who have long gone on strike in the run-up to the holidays, have found a new occasion to get their employerís attention: "Prime Day."Nearly 1,800 Amazon workers in Spain went on strike Monday during Prime Day, which has quickly grown ...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Jared Kushnerís family firm accused of pushing out rent-stabilized tenants

Jared Kushnerís family firm accused of pushing out rent-stabilized tenants

NEW YORK ó The hammering and drilling began just months after Jared Kushnerís family real estate firm bought a converted warehouse apartment building in the hip, Williamsburg section of Brooklyn. Tenants say it started early in the morning and went o...
Updated: 6 hours ago
FCC chairman has Ďserious concernsí about Sinclair-Tribune merger, could seek to block deal

FCC chairman has Ďserious concernsí about Sinclair-Tribune merger, could seek to block deal

WASHINGTON - Sinclair Broadcastingís proposed $3.9 billion acquisition of Tribune Media has raised "serious concerns" at the Federal Communications Commission about the amount of control the combined company would have over the U.S. television market...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Tampa cybersecurity firm A-LIGN raises $54.4 million

Tampa cybersecurity firm A-LIGN raises $54.4 million

TAMPA ó Tampa-based cybersecurity company A-LIGN raised a $54.5 million investment from FTV Capital, the company announced Monday. A-LIGN specializes in helping businesses stay compliant with regulatory and industry standards for cybersecurity."As a ...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Any Tampa Bay transit project will bring development opportunities, expert says

Any Tampa Bay transit project will bring development opportunities, expert says

Big transit projects are often about much more than moving people from one place to another.Thatís where real estate adviser Marilee Utter comes in. Her specialty is helping communities get the most out of development opportunities that arise from bu...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Tampa ranks second best in nation for first-time homebuyers

Tampa ranks second best in nation for first-time homebuyers

Despite rising prices, Tampa has been deemed the second best city in the nation for first-time homebuyers. Thatís according to the website WalletHub, which compared 300 cities using 27 metrics including home prices, property tax rates and property-cr...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Pretzels to replace peanuts on Southwest flights

Pretzels to replace peanuts on Southwest flights

On Southwest, you no longer can fly for peanuts. But you can for pretzels. On Aug. 1, the low-cost carrier will cut the popular snack food from all flights, in deference to its passengers with peanut allergies."Peanuts forever will be part of Southwe...
Updated: 8 hours ago