Few states in the country can match Florida’s affinity for sports. With a $57.4 billion economic impact through its sports industry and more than 3,000 events taking place in the Sunshine State annually, clearly, athletics are big business in Florida. Given that so many competitions are unfolding in the state and that number continues to trend upward, Florida finds itself seeking newer, bigger, and better venues to hold these events.
Here are some of the facilities that have recently began dotting the Floridian landscape or are in the works:
(Schmidt Family Complex for Academic and Athletic Excellence)
Florida Atlantic University’s $50 million, 121,000-square-foot athletic facility is expected to open in 2019. Construction began in January of 2018 on the Schmidt Family Complex for Academic and Athletic Excellence, which will become the football team’s new training facility.
The complex is slated to include hydroponic pools, classrooms, and dining facilities in addition to new locker rooms, coaches offices, recruiting areas, and a strength and conditioning sports performance center. Barbara and Richard Schmidt donated $16 million from the Schmidt Family Foundation in December 2014, the largest single gift in FAU history, which propelled this project forward.
(Multipurpose Sports Complex)
A planned $70 million sports complex in southwestern Collier County, whose largest city is Naples, is scheduled to feature 16 multi purpose fields for football, baseball, soccer, and lacrosse. Projected models of the 120-acre complex show it will include a champion stadium with 3,000 to 5,000 seats.
This amateur complex is being designed with the hopes of attracting professional European and South American soccer clubs to host clinics and exhibition games at the venue. The county plans to open the first fields by the end of 2019 and the entire complex by 2021.
(Baseball Stadium, Football Complex, Softball Stadium)
The University of Florida plans to build a new baseball stadium, a new standalone football complex and upgrade its softball venue with the $130 million facilities project targeted to be completed in 2021. Florida will build a $50 million baseball stadium on 13.63 acres of land with the project being completed prior to the 2020 baseball season. The stadium will increase chair-back seating from 2,408 to approximately 5,000 with an overall capacity of about 10,000 and will contain a 360-degree open concourse and enhanced concession space.
When the baseball team completes its 2019 season in its current stadium, that ballpark will be demolished and construction will begin in late 2019 or early 2020 on a planned 130,000-square-foot, two-story football complex that will cost an estimated $65 million. The facility will serve as the new home for Florida football student-athletes and staff and will house team meeting rooms, a locker room, a strength and conditioning area, a training room, and coaches offices.
The third portion of the university’s master plan will see $11 million in renovations to Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium, home of the Gators’ softball program. Expected to be completed in time for the 2019 season, renovations will include a 360-degree open concourse, shade structures for fans, and an elevated press box. Fixed seating, which will be all chairback seats, will increase from 1,431 to approximately 2,280 with an overall capacity that will reach approximately 2,800.
(The Arena at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex)
For 21 years, the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex located in the Walt Disney World Resort has hosted more than 70 types of sports and millions of athletes and spectators. In 2018, the complex opened a 300,000-square-foot, 8,000 seat multi-purpose arena that is one of the world’s largest venues designed specifically for hosting cheer and dance team events.
This versatile arena can be configured into four separate event spaces and is designed to accommodate performance and multi-competition events like cheerleading, dance, martial arts, gymnastics, volleyball, basketball, and robotics exhibits. The arena’s main floor contains 50,000 square feet of continuous space and its two auxiliary areas feature 22,000 square feet of space each.
Panama City Beach
(Panama City Beach Sports Complex)
Construction has begun on the Panama City Beach Sports Complex. This $37 million project, located on 210 acres of donated land, will be one of the largest complexes in the southeast, and is scheduled to open its first phase in May of 2019.
The public-private facility will feature an outdoor field complex, indoor sports center and a new elementary school. The facility will include 13 rectangular fields, including nine with turf surfaces, dedicated tournament buildings and two stadium championship fields with seating for up to 1,500 spectators. The complex will be able to host soccer, football, flag football, lacrosse, rugby, baseball and softball.
Sports Facilities Management, located in Clearwater, will operate the venue. A study by the company anticipates an economic impact of $23.2 million for the first year, with 81,611 non-summer visitors filling 60,000 room nights. Phase one of the project could provide between 100 and 150 additional jobs for the area, counting on-site management, operational staff, game officials and concession workers.
(Atlanta Braves Spring Training Site)
This $125 million state-of-the-art spring training complex for Major League Baseball’s Atlanta Braves resides in the city of North Port in Sarasota County, 35 miles south of Sarasota in southwestern Florida, and is scheduled to open in 2019.
Spanning 70 acres, the project will include a stadium with 6,200 seats, a 360-degree concourse walkway, luxury suites, six full and two half practice fields. It will also feature an outfield patio and bar area, a 55,000-square-foot clubhouse, an office building for both major and minor league operations and a batting cage.
The park will produce an estimated $1.7 billion economic impact between 2019 and 2048, which is the length of the team’s current lease with the facility, and the Braves anticipate 23 percent of fans will visit from out-of-state, spending $6.3 million annually in the community.
(Championship SportsPlex of Tampa Bay)
Opening in late 2018, the Championship SportsPlex of Tampa Bay is located in central Tampa and can accommodate a wide range of events, including soccer, football and lacrosse.
The complex offers 15 full-sized soccer fields, including 10 multipurpose, four quad fields and one championship field. This is a tournamentonly facility, meaning tournaments and events will not have to compete with local practice and game schedules when planning events. The venue is already attracting business as the United States Flag & Touch Football League selected the SportsPlex to host its National Championships in 2019. This selection is a boon for the Tampa area as the 2018 USFTL National Championships attracted 456 teams and consisted of roughly 9,000 players with an additional 4,000 family members and friends in attendance, traveling from across the United States.