Diamond 9 Events, which runs softball tournaments at Disney ESPN Wide World of Sports, has signed on as anchor tenant at Oscoela Heritage Park. The league plans to use the faciltiy to expand into baseball and other sports.
Diamond 9 Events, which runs softball tournaments at Disney ESPN Wide World of Sports, has signed on as anchor tenant at Oscoela Heritage Park. The league plans to use the faciltiy to expand into baseball and other sports. (Osceola County)

The Kissimmee Sports Foundation didn't have to look far for a new anchor tenant for Osceola Heritage Park. The sports commission announced a two-year deal with Diamond 9 Events, which primarily operates at the ESPN Wide World of Sports, to expand its youth and college sports to OHP.

Experience Kissimmee estimates the economic impact at $96 million annually, starting in 2018.

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The 168-acre park is losing its two biggest tenants: the Houston Astros and the U.S. Specialty Sports Association. Both are relocating to other parts of Florida, though the Astros are training in Kissimmee this spring, and USSSA will be here through 2017.

With USSSA all but gone, Osceola County works to recover sports tourism revenue

The county is scrambling to replace 75,000 guaranteed room nights it will lose from youth sports tournaments.

But KSF Sports Marketing Director John Poole said the new two-year contract with Diamond 9 promises to be a more lucrative deal -- generating twice the revenue and 83,000 room nights each year. "We hope the majority of those rooms nights will be in Osceola," he said.

As part of the agreement, Diamond 9 Events will host five baseball and six softball events spanning January through October 2018 at Disney's WWOS and the Osceola County Stadium. The two-year deal also opens the door for Diamond 9 to broaden its profile beyond softball and begin staging baseball tournaments.

"They wanted to venture into the baseball realm of things," Poole told GrowthSpotter. He said all of the tournaments would take place at both venues -- with the combined number of fields Diamond 9 can attract up to 125 teams.

The opportunity to play at the MLB-quality stadium will be a major draw for high school and college teams, Poole said. "The facility sells itself," he said. "It's more of a championship feel."

In addition, Diamond 9 will have access to City of Kissimmee parks to add even more softball fields. With the deal, the two parties also agreed to discuss possibly establishing a Diamond 9 Events headquarters, a national training facility, and improving Kissimmee's existing softball and baseball venues.

Poole said Diamond 9 tends to focus on Division 1 college-level competition, but contract still leaves enough open dates so the sports foundation will be able to market to smaller colleges and youth leagues.

"One of the biggest parts of the deal is having them as anchor also allows us the ability to fill other calendar dates," he said. "Then you've got different types of events coming and different colleges."

Since its launch in 2009, Diamond 9 Events has conducted large softball tournaments to elite travel softball teams from across the nation. The company currently hosts 21 events mainly at Disney, but also in other states.

Among them is the Sun Classic Fall Showcase, one of the largest recruiting showcases in the world. Last year, 325 teams attended the event along with more than 200 college coaches.

"We think Kissimmee Sports will provide our participants with a quality experience through their amazing array of accommodations, ideal location and an overall high-caliber sports experience," Diamond 9 President Kevin O'Donnell said in a recent press release. "We are excited to see what the future holds and overjoyed that Kissimmee Sports will be a part of our journey and future endeavors."

Don Miers, Osceola's director of sports facilities, said the agreement was an important step, especially as the county seeks hotel groups to build branded hotels at OHP and at the new Judge Farms research park.

"The hotel piece is significant because what they're being told is during the week we hope to fill your rooms with business travelers for the sensor project across the street, on the weekend it will be sports teams," Miers told GrowthSpotter.

Osceola Heritage Park plans for major sports expansion

A new master plan for the 168-acre park could accommodate two MLB teams for spring training and sports events throughout the year even as it prepares to lose the Houston Astros. Retail, hotels and an amphitheater are part of the new plan.

In addition to the hotel sites, the OHP master plan calls for major expansion of sports facilities, including eight new regulation baseball fields, four infield practice fields, batting cages and two pitching/catching areas with 16 mounds. The plan would bring the total number of full-sized fields to 13.

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Poole said sports foundation officials have already had conversations with county officials about implementing the master plan. He hopes the Diamond 9 contract "will be a springboard for new investment" at the park.

Have a tip about Central Florida development? Contact me at lkinsler@GrowthSpotter.com or (407)420-6261, or tweet me at @LKinslerOGrowth. Follow GrowthSpotter on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

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