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Hernando tournaments boost local economy

BROOKSVILLE — Hosting the Florida Dixie Double-A Machine Pitch State Tournament in early July provided Hernando County with a much-needed six-figure boost to the local economy.

The weeklong baseball competition held at Ernie Wever Youth Park drew 16 teams and more than 240 players from around the state, according to figures released recently by the Hernando County Tourist Development Bureau.

Tourism coordinator Tammy Heon said that translated into an overall economic impact of at least $118,000 that players, coaches and family members spent here during their stay.

Accommodations alone accounted for $31,750 of that total, she said, and returned $954 in bed tax revenues to her department's coffers.

For Heon, the tournament's success was further proof that the area is fast becoming known as a viable site for major amateur sporting events.

"We have great fields and facilities," she said. "If we concentrate our efforts, I could see us hosting perhaps two or three sports tournaments a month."

Heon said that the county's two major sports complexes, Ernie Wever Youth Park and Anderson Snow Park, are both capable of handling many of the larger events her department wants to attract, including baseball, softball, soccer and football.

Last year, the council formed a six-member sports marketing committee devoted to stepping up the county's effort to attract events. It also joined the Florida Sports Foundation, an organization that assists communities and host organizations in attracting sports events.

Both moves, Heon said, have greatly expanded the county's exposure to organizations and leagues such as AAU Baseball, the United States Fastpitch Association, the Florida Youth Soccer Association and Dixie Softball, all of which hold major tournaments throughout the year.

"The competition for sporting events is pretty fierce," Heon said. "Our biggest advantage is that we're centrally located and close to two major population centers (Tampa and Orlando), so it's not a long drive to get here."

To lure potential sports organizers, local tourist development officials offer sponsorship incentives based on the economic impact an event will bring. For example, a guarantee of between 50 and 99 room nights can earn up to $500 worth of sponsorship, while larger tournaments guaranteeing 750 room nights could earn the host organization upwards of $3,500.

In addition, tournament organizers can also qualify for reimbursement for some expenses such as promotion and advertising and production.

County recreation coordinator Harry Johnson, who is a member of the sports marketing committee, said that attracting more major tournaments would not only benefit the county's parks system, it would also bring additional revenue to youth sports and adult recreation leagues that host the events.

"It's a double win," Johnson said. "Not only do the leagues earn money from concessions, they also get a portion of the entry fees. That adds up quick."

Logan Neill can be reached at (352) 848-1435 or lneill@sptimes.com.

Hernando tournaments boost local economy 09/01/11 [Last modified: Thursday, September 1, 2011 9:18pm]

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