Sports tourism plays a $6 million role in Destin's economy

Matt Algarin
More than 85 teams from Florida, Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi converged on Destin for the Destin Rodeo Soccer Tournament in 2012. This was a two-day event that was played on three sites around the city.

While the city's parks and recreation staff may be relatively small in numbers, their efforts are contributing to Destin's overall economy in a big way.

"The council really has tasked us with amping up our sports tourism," Recreation Manager Lance Johnson told The Log.

And with more than 20 tournaments on the books this year, ranging from soccer and youth baseball to lacrosse and softball, the city's parks and recreation crew have seen thousands of families come to Destin.

Johnson said the city has been working with the Haas Center at the University of West Florida to develop methodology to estimate the impact sporting events have on the city's overall economy. The preliminary data shows that these events, which are typically held at Morgan's Sports Center, could generate more than $6 million.

The tournaments, which range in size from smaller to large, can bring in anywhere from 30 teams to almost 200 teams based on the sport. Johnson said a soccer tournament held May 4 and 5 brought in 40 teams and their families, and had an economic impact of about $140,000. A "smaller" 25-team tournament in March accounted for $50,000.

"We were looking at the numbers and were kind of blown away," Johnson told The Log Tuesday. "For the first year of trying to track this, we are really tickled with where we are at."

Once the year rounds out, Johnson said the city will have a good bit of data to use as a benchmark to compare upcoming years.

"We'll take a good look at the numbers and see what trends are out there one way or the other," he said.