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For those who follow the efforts of the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, it is no secret that a top priority for the destination’s tourism marketing arm is driving sports tourism.
For years, the Bradenton area has been reaping the benefits of attracting national and international sporting events, providing not only one-of-a-kind experiences for all who attend, but also an introduction to the many additional destination assets beyond the sporting facilities for those visiting.
From Premier Sports Campus to IMG Academy to LECOM Park to Lakewood National Golf Club to Nathan Benderson Park (and more), the destination’s top-notch facilities are varied and many, allowing for the Bradenton area to host unique and exciting events.
Over the past 12 months, our area has welcomed thousands of athletes, coaches and fans for events, including The Sarasota Cup and Nike Friendlies (which brought in more than 280 youth soccer teams from around the world), college rowing (which featured Dartmouth, Harvard, Georgetown and Pennsylvania), Beach Bums regional volleyball championship and the Web.com Tour’s Suncoast Classic.
And yet two of the largest and most-exciting events to come to the Bradenton area are yet to come.
On Oct. 12-13, Premier Sports Campus once again will serve as home to the USAFL National Championships, a tournament for Australian rules football, an event that the BACVB and Sarasota Sports Commission hosted in 2016.
The tournament director recently shared that the campus and destination were again selected after a remarkably successful experience in 2016 (which drew more than 2,000), touting the efforts of the Bradenton area and Sarasota Sports Commission, the local support received, world-class field quality, facility amenities and overall cost as main drivers in the decision.
In addition, it was announced in March that LECOM Park in Bradenton will serve as one of the two sites of the U-18 Baseball World Cup in 2021. This will be the first time since Cape Cod and Fenway Park in Boston hosted the 1995 Junior World Championship that the top youth international baseball event will be held in the United States.
The 30th World Cup is scheduled to take place in September 2021 and will feature the world’s top 16- to 18 year-old baseball players, with 12 countries represented. All 50 games will be played between LECOM Park and Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota.
For all sporting events of this caliber, the BACVB will use the tournaments as opportunities to promote beaches, dining, arts and culture and more, with the goal of driving return visits to areas all across the destination and ultimately increasing the economic impact of tourism overall.
Though sports tourism has always been a focus for the BACVB, the past few years have shown how imperative it can be during times of adversity.
We can credit success in this sector as one of the most effective ways that we have been able to maintain visitation both in slower seasons and when conditions at other top assets — such as our beaches — are affected by weather or natural occurrences such as red tide.
With all of the exciting upcoming events (and additional ones in the works), I encourage residents to come out to the fields and enjoy the great competition and facilities.
And while you are there, be sure to share all that you love about your home with our visitors so that they return time and time again.
Elliott Falcione is the executive director of the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau and can be reached at Elliott.Falcione@BACVB.com or 941-729-9177, ext. 3940.