Lakewood Ranch Herald

Labor Day Showcase adds teams, should help local economy

MANATEE -- The annual Labor Day Showcase youth soccer event is back for a second year at Lakewood Ranch's Premier Sports Campus, drawing teams from all over the state, boosting the local economy.

This year's tournament, though, is a little different.

More food vendors, a Jumbotron and 30 more teams have been added to an event that is expected to draw more than 25,000 people and 300 clubs representing players ages 8 to 18, Premier Sports Campus director Tim Mulqueen said.

"People are staying all the way out on the beaches, up in Parrish, down in Venice," Mulqueen said. "Our restaurants and businesses do a great job supplying people when they leave our campus. On the site, we have a variety of other vendors supplying hamburgers, hot dogs, drinks, Italian ice."

With so many players, parents, friends and out-of-towners flocking to the Suncoast, the economy is poised to get a bump.

The 2011 tournament pumped more than $8 million into the area, according to a news release. The benefactors are local businesses, hotels and restaurants that see increased traffic during the three-day event.

"Since its (Premier Sports Campus) conception, we have seen an increase in business because they're right here on Lorraine Road, and we definitely want to have a business partnership with them," Bradenton Wingate hotel sales manager Pam Kalaczynski said.

There are no rooms available at the Bradenton Wingate for Saturday night. The 78 rooms were booked more than a month ago.

The Clearwater Chargers, who operate out of the Premier Sports Campus, have an official restaurant in Lakewood Ranch.

And that restaurant, the Ranch Grill, has been busy preparing for the hordes of people scheduled to descend upon Manatee County.

"We're very excited to be where we are. We've been working with the Chargers getting ready," Ranch Grill marketing coordinator Jennifer McRoberts said. "We're hosting some lunches for them. We'll be pumping out ice cream (at Memory Lane) for everybody because it's going to be hot."

The tourney kicks off Saturday with games beginning at 8 a.m. and concludes Monday. Parking and admission is free, and Mulqueen said the tournament is the second largest in the state behind one at Disney World in Orlando.

The whole community is welcome.

"It's the kickoff of the youth soccer season here in Florida as well as nationally. It's a great time. The kids are back in school. Families are looking to do things as a group. People love to come to athletic events as a family and enjoy good weather and soccer," he said.