The U.S. Specialty Sports Association and its roughly $40-million impact on Osceola County's economy is all but packed for a move to Brevard County at the end of 2016.
Osceola is now left to pursue amateur sports groups and school conferences on a piecemeal basis for the foreseeable future, in the hopes of luring tournaments to fill the 50,000-to-75,000 hotel room nights per year that USSSA tournaments have previously delivered.
"We're presented with a challenge for sure, as those were (up to) 75,000 guaranteed room nights a year filled for the area," Don Miers, Osceola County's director of sports facilities, told GrowthSpotter. "We knew this could happen, so we've been working with the Central Florida Sports Commission and Kissimmee Sports Commission, putting feelers out there nationally to different sports groups."
Brevard County Commissioners should vote today to approve a lease agreement with the non-profit USSSA to use Space Coast Stadium and nearby facilities in Viera. The association would move its headquarters from Osceola Heritage Park to Viera as soon as the end of 2016, when it can end its lease agreement with Osceola County.
USSSA became frustrated with Osceola Heritage Park's limited number of sports fields (six), which required it to spread large tournaments out between those fields, Disney's Wide World of Sports and other local complexes.
Osceola County Commissioners voted down proposals in the past to build new fields for Heritage Park. The association will have 10 or 12 fields at its disposal in Brevard County.
USSSA is moving more than 175 days a year of youth sports tournaments away from Osceola with the relocation, and is guaranteeing to Brevard County that its tournaments will deliver at least 75,000 hotel room nights in its first full year, and reach 100,000 room nights in year three.
For Oscoela County and its Heritage Park sports facilities to stay competitive in the amateur sports world, more fields will be necessary to lure ever-growing tournaments, Miers said.
Funding for those fields isn't likely to come from the county coffers, based on Osceola's BCC voting down such initiatives in the past.
A few companies around the country have found success developing privately owned and managed youth sporting facilities for use by local organizations. Miers said he and the county may contact those companies to discuss investing in Osceola.
The 20-year lease agreement between Brevard and USSSA includes reimbursement of up to $10 million to the association for upgrades it plans to make at the Space Coast Stadium and Viera complex. Upgrades include building new fields and adding new lighting so USSSA can host large youth sports tournaments.
The county will pull funds to reimburse USSSA from its 5 percent Tourist Development Tax on hotel rooms and short-term rentals.
Calls for comment were not returned by USSSA on Wednesday.
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