Few states in the country can match Florida’s array of captivating locales and notable sporting venues. The Florida Sports Foundation’s mission is to ensure as many visitors as possible will relish these highlights.
The foundation, which was formed in 1992 and is located in Tallahassee, is the official sports promotion and development organization for the state of Florida. A nonprofit organization, the foundation aims to bolster Florida’s sports industry and is dedicated to serving its athletics community by endorsing the advancement of professional, amateur and recreational sports.
Florida possesses a thriving outdoor athletics scene (fishing, boating, swimming, kayaking, biking and hiking, to name a few), some of the best golfing complexes in the country and is home to 10 professional sports franchises in Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association, the National Football League, the National Hockey League and Major League Soccer. The state is also the spring training home for 15 Major League Baseball franchises and more than 26 million fans have attended Florida spring training games since 2000.
With Florida sports creating more than $57 billion in economic impact while providing more than 580,000 jobs and attracting 16 million out-of state visitors every year, the state has deservingly earned the moniker “Sports Capital of the World.” The Florida Sports Foundation strives to enhance that reputation by assisting Florida’s communities with securing, hosting and retaining sporting events that generate considerable economic impact through grant programs and legislative initiatives.
The grant programs were established in 1996 to assist communities and host organizations in attracting sports events. Since July 1, 2013, the foundation has awarded 486 grants, with awards totaling $11,383,100. These awards brought Florida an estimated 2,694,441 out-of-state visitors, which earned more than $2 billion in out-of-state economic impact and created more than 31,000 hospitality-related jobs. Some high-profile events that have received grants during that time include the 2017 NFL Pro Bowl in Orlando, the 2017 MLB All Star Game in Miami, the 2017 World Baseball Classic in Miami and the 2017 College Football Playoff National Championship in Tampa.
“Our goals are to continue the growth of sports tourism and development in the state of Florida through the promotion of outstanding events and opportunities that also bring jobs and foster a healthy lifestyle to and for all visitors, as well as residents of the state,” said Angela Adams Suggs, Florida Sports Foundation president and senior vice president of sports development for Enterprise Florida.
Suggs was recently named the foundation’s president, arriving from Florida A&M University where she worked as the Senior Associate Athletics Director for External Affairs and Senior Woman Administrator. She was also the athletics department’s primary liaison with campus direct support organizations, affinity and support groups, and community relations.
Her mission as the Florida Sports Foundation president is to help the organization augment the impact it has on the state’s sporting culture.
“We (are looking) to build upon the Florida Sports Foundation’s first 25 years while expanding the recruitment and retention of sporting events and sports related business opportunities,” Suggs said. “We look to continue generating a significant economic impact while supporting job creation through sports tourism and development. The Florida Sports Foundation works in support of continuing the success of the $57.4 billion impact here in our state – through the promotion of amateur, professional and recreational sports and sporting opportunities throughout our footprint.”
While offering grants is an important role the foundation provides, the organization, which is governed by a board of directors totaling 19 members, also takes pride in serving Florida’s residents in a myriad of other ways. The foundation serves as the state’s leading resource for sports tourism research and facts; it produces and distributes annual golf, fishing and boating, and baseball spring training guides; and assists in the promotion of targeted leisure sport industries.
Perhaps the foundation’s most noteworthy accomplishment is organizing the annual Sunshine State Games, an Olympic-style festival for Floridians of all ages, and the annual Florida Senior Games, a multisport event program for adults 50 and older.
The Sunshine State Games were created in 1980 to provide Florida’s residents with an Olympic-style festival program for amateur athletes of all ages and skill levels. It is the nation’s oldest state games and is the state’s largest and longest-standing multi-sport festival. These games provide Floridians with the chance to develop and display their physical talents and competitive abilities. Of the more than 200,000 participants since 1980, many have gone on to fulfill Olympic dreams while thousands more have achieved personal goals and victories.
The Senior Games movement first began in Florida when the Golden Age Games were created in 1974 in Sanford, a city residing in the central region of the state. Shortly after, local and state senior games began appearing nationwide. In 1992, the first Florida Senior Games State Championships were held in Bradenton, a city located south of Tampa. Since then, the games have become a destination for top athletes across the world and have given the state’s seniors the chance to compete at the local, state and national level.
“For 25 years the Florida Sports Foundation has served as the official sports promotion and development organization for the State of Florida,” Suggs said. “The one-of-a -kind industry opportunities in our state are supported by top notch industry leadership. Our board of directors and industry partners throughout the state continue to attract and produce major events and other unique opportunities at a level of excellence, greatly viewed and respected throughout the world.”