Emphasizing Sports & Entertainment In Our Economy

Jacksonville is a sports and entertainment center, and our momentum must continue. Why? The impact is measurable and it benefits Jacksonville and all of Northeast Florida.

Published May 8, 2014 in Opinion - MetroJacksonville.com

Jacksonville is a sports and entertainment center, and our momentum must continue.

Why? The impact is measurable and it benefits Jacksonville and all of Northeast Florida.

Sports and entertainment events build on the competitive strengths our community already has.  That’s also why the City recently partnered with Gator Bowl Sports and the JAX Chamber to create the new Jacksonville Sports Council as a public-private partnership to promote Jacksonville as a premier venue and destination for professional, amateur and youth sports as well as for major entertainment and cultural events.

As mayor, I want our city to leverage our existing resources to improve our quality of life, add jobs and reinvigorate Downtown.
In April, the second One Spark crowdfunding festival brought thousands of people to a vibrant Downtown. The event demonstrates that Jacksonville is “open for business,” supporting entrepreneurs, promoting innovation and encouraging startups. One Spark reports that an estimated 260,000 people attended the five-day event to visit creators, enjoy live music and art, and experience the best of what Jacksonville has to offer.

In May, we expect more positive returns thanks to The PLAYERS Championship. Last year, THE PLAYERS attracted more than 175,000 fans to the Stadium Course, with 50 percent of them from outside Northeast Florida. The annual event had an economic impact of $151 million – all while being broadcast to an international audience of more than 850 million television viewers.  In recent years, the City has partnered with the JAX Chamber and Visit Jacksonville to expand that experience into Downtown Jacksonville.

We expect more dynamic events, which is one reason that I have championed sports and entertainment as a priority. As we seek to enhance our city and elevate our international profiles, these events bring visitors and attention to Jacksonville

For examples, the final U.S. Men’s Soccer match before the World Cup against Nigeria will draw passionate soccer fans from far beyond Jacksonville, and play to an international TV audience on ESPN and UniMás. And on June 22, Sir Paul McCartney will play his first full concert here since 1964.

And we haven’t even discussed our widely successful Jazz Festival, or the Florida Country Superfest at EverBank Field, June 14 and 15.
Investing in sports and entertainment does exactly that.

Jacksonville is a sports city. We have an NFL football team, a championship Arena Football League team, a minor league baseball team,  a championship ABA Basketball team, two Division I universities, a championship rugby team and a brand new NASL Soccer team. We host the annual Florida-Georgia Football Classic and the TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl (recently renamed the TaxSlayer Bowl). And you can barely go a weekend without a 5k race running somewhere in town.

Jacksonville is also the entertainment hub of our region. With numerous festivals and concerts, including annual events like the Jacksonville Jazz Festival, the World of Nations Celebration, and big upcoming attractions like the Florida Country Superfest, even more people are drawn to our city from across the nation and the world.

In addition to serving as valuable amenities for our local residents, these events draw many visitors and tourists who might not otherwise come to Jacksonville.  In particular, these events add vitality to our greater Downtown area, driving more consumers (both residents and visitors) and offering a springboard for our Downtown revitalization efforts.

Our city is strategically located to benefit from event-driven tourism. We’re within a day’s drive from big markets like Charlotte, Charleston, Atlanta, Orlando, Tampa and Miami, giving us the opportunity to draw fans from these cities with our own premier sports and cultural events.

While there is no precise measurement, it’s clear that sports and entertainment account for a significant stream of tourist traffic to Jacksonville, including regional and national convention traffic.  And tourism is big business here, generating $684 million in income for our community in 2013, according to a study by Visit Jacksonville. In addition, there are more than 22,000 local jobs associated with tourism and hospitality. These jobs represent 5.7 percent of Jacksonville’s total employment – or nearly one in 18 jobs.

According to the same study, without the state and local tax revenues that come from tourism, the average Jacksonville household would need to pay an additional $550 in taxes to maintain the current level of government services.

We can be sure that our tourism numbers will get bigger as we host even more major sports and entertainment events that draw outside visitors to Jacksonville.

Sports and entertainment also add to our mix of amenities and enhance the quality of life that makes Jacksonville more attractive to businesses that might relocate or expand here, as well as to highly-skilled, mobile young professionals who can choose where to live and make their careers.  In turn, expanding our local talent pool of highly-skilled professionals makes Jacksonville more attractive to relocating and expanding companies.

Look at global companies like Deutsche Bank, Medtronic and Adecco. They can locate practically anywhere. So can many of their employees, especially the prospective employees they want to recruit and hire. These companies are engaged in what they call a “war for talent,” a battle to secure the best and brightest workers for their businesses. They need everything they can to win this “war,” and the quality of life of the local community is proving to be a potent weapon in that arsenal.

Sports and entertainment help shine a light on our city, showing a worldwide audience that Jacksonville is a great destination.
Last fall, I joined Shad Khan and local business leaders on a trade mission to London as the Jaguars played a game there, where we met with 20 companies to pitch Jacksonville as a great place to do business. It’s clear that, as these companies decide where to invest, they are taking a close look not just at the hard economic numbers, but also key community quality of life indicators. One of these companies, Greencore Group, has already announced plans to invest $10 million and create up to 283 new jobs in Jacksonville. We’re expecting even more good news from this trade mission in the coming months.

So this is not about promoting sports and entertainment for their own sake. It is about building a dynamic, lively community with a strong set of amenities that make Jacksonville a magnet for new visitors, businesses and prospective new residents as well as a more appealing community for our existing residents.

As we attract more visitors, businesses and residents, we also expand and strengthen our local tax base to maintain and improve public services while limiting the tax burden on current residents.

Since making sports and entertainment a priority when I took office in July 2011, we’ve achieved some great successes:

We’re not stopping here. Working with the new Jacksonville Sports Council and other partners, the City will continue our focus on sports and entertainment. We aim to reach out to new and larger audiences with even more diverse events.

To succeed in attracting more sports and entertainment events, it’s not enough simply to have a good sales pitch. We also need to invest in the up-to-date physical infrastructure to support these events, such as the new state-of-the-art scoreboards and other enhancements to EverBank Field. We found a way to make this investment without taking away from important city services like our libraries or public safety, and Jaguars owner Shad Khan put in $20 million of his own money to get this done.

Building on the solid foundation we already have, I believe we can elevate Jacksonville’s status and competitive position even higher. It will make Jacksonville an even better, stronger, greater city for everyone.

This article can be found at: https://www.metrojacksonville.com/article/2014-may-emphasizing-sports-entertainment-in-our-economy

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