Can Tampa cash in on youth sports tournaments? - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

Can Tampa cash in on youth sports tournaments?

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TAMPA (FOX 13) -

Parents spend an estimated $5-billion a year on youth sports, and it's growing. Millions of kids play 'club' or 'travel' sports, which require travel to different cities, hotel rooms, rental cars, and meals at restaurants.

Now, at least three local investor groups are working to build large youth sports facilities in the Tampa area to tap into the youth sports market.


A youth soccer facility is planned in the Brandon area, a baseball and softball complex near Riverview, and an indoor facility for volleyball, basketball, and wrestling near Tampa's Westshore District.

Bob Gries, former owner of the Tampa Bay Storm arena football team, is leading the Westshore project.

"We want to do something that will be a signature facility for the Tampa Bay area," said Gries, who now lead Gries Investment Funds.


Local government leaders say there is little public money available for facilities, but some are helping push the projects if funded by private money.

"If you look at these facilities throughout the country, they are revenue-producing generators," stated

Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagen.

In fact, organizers of the Big South volleyball tournament in Atlanta say the three-day event draws 58,000 people, including players, coaches, parents, siblings, vendors, and college coaches looking for recruits.

Organizers say the event has an economic impact of more than $20-million on local hotels, restaurants and other businesses.


Right now, investor groups are being formed to fund the projects. Gries says he hopes to raise $20-million to build the indoor facility. One possible location is near Tampa International, just west of the Veterans Expressway on land owned by the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority.

Gries says the facility could host large tournaments that could draw 10,000 out-of-town players, coaches, and family members.

He says hotels in the Westshore District, often with vacancies on weekends, could be full of tournament participants and their families if the facility is built.

"Youth tournaments in any sport bring just enormous business," added Gries.

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