St. Johns Considers Sports Commission 

Two board members of the St. Johns County (FL) Tourist Development Council called for the creation of a sports commission that would attract events to the county at its meeting this week. 

Local sports marketing is done through the county’s parks and recreation department, headed by Wil Smith. But Jack Peter and Bill Hughes said a dedicated sports marketing entity would better serve the county.

“The amount of economic impact that all of that activity does, the amount of exposure through television, print, through social media is extraordinary,” said Peter, who is the president of the World Golf Hall of Fame.

“It’s a giant county, and it seems to me we might take a look at creating a sports commission, at least look at the feasibility of it because along with that comes a heightened profile of the county generally, nationally, because all of the sudden you’re in the conversation now with sports commissions around the country.”

Many communities have such commissions, which can be useful for bringing in huge events like a Super Bowl or NCAA basketball tournament to more modest events like youth baseball or softball tournaments. 

A 2014 study by the University of West Florida’s Haas Center showed that sports and recreation was responsible for $44.4 billion in total economic output in the state.

Just landing one big event, even an amateur one, can be a huge revenue generator for a community. For example, the 43rd Amateur Athletic Union Girls Junior National Volleyball Championships in Orlando generated an estimated $52 million over two weeks in June, according to Sports Destination Management.

Only the County Commission can create an official sports commission, and the TDC didn’t formally request it to do so at its meeting. But the board members certainly seemed to be leaning that way.

Smith said the county saw an impact of $13.5 million from various sporting events last year. A sports commission might be able to get that number higher.

“I think certainly it’s something that this county and this board need to start looking at,” Smith said Monday.

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