That Tampa is a major sports-venue market is hardly a secret. But it’s more than the occasional mega event such as a Super Bowl, Women’s Final Four, ACC Tournament or even Frozen Four (NCAA hockey). To wit: Earlier this month Tampa hosted the American Athletic Union Age Group National Gymnastics Championship, which drew 1,500 participants. A week earlier it was the 60-team state softball championships and the 74-team girls national basketball championships.
According to the Tampa Bay Convention & Visitors Bureau, that threesome was worth 6,200 visitor room nights in the off season. Last year Tampa hosted 85 sports-related events worth 127,000 visitor room nights. That was almost double the 69,000 figure in 2005.
“It’s a testament to the entire community’s focus on sports,” says Rob Higgins, the executive director of the Tampa Bay Sports Commission. “Major events are certainly great and result in unlimited promotional value, but the youth and amateur events really fuel the hospitality and tourism industry.”