Jeff Blom: Sports tourism driving economic development

By Jeff Blom

FC Cincinnati’s announcement last week that it wants to build a $30-million soccer training complex and future FCC Academy in Milford is a tremendous boon for economic development in both the City and Clermont County.

The Clermont County Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB), along with the County, the City of Milford and Clermont County Port Authority, have been working for months to bring the FC Cincinnati training complex to our community – and for good reason.

The soccer complex is expected to generate up to $6.8 million in annual economic impact in Clermont County, primarily from the direct spending of out-of-town visitors who will visit the new facility, local hotels, restaurants, and other businesses, according to an economic-impact analysis by The Sports Facilities Advisory (SFA), a Clearwater, Fla.-based sports-management consulting firm we hired to analyze the economic impact of this development.

According to the SFA study, the new soccer complex, the future FCC Soccer Academy, and associated soccer tournaments and activities are expected to generate 64,687 visitor days each year from out-of-town visitors, which includes people who come to the complex from more than 90 minutes away. The SFA report also indicates the soccer complex will generate up to 17,854 hotel room-nights each year.

FC Cincinnati will pay approximately $30 million to build the new training complex and soccer academy. The CVB will provide funding for land acquisition and public infrastructure improvements needed for the facility through a one-percent increase in the County’s current six-percent hotel tax.

Since this is a tax on hotel rooms, visitors to Clermont County — not residents — will pay the one-percent increase. This funding is not only an important investment in our community, but also a great way to bring visitors and tourists, to our community, which will result in a significant economic impact and further solidify the region as a premier sports destination.

Hotels in Clermont County support the one-percent hotel tax increase, which must be approved by the Clermont County Board of County Commissioners. In a letter supporting the tax increase for the project, Nick Baker, general manager of the Holiday Inn in Eastgate, said his hotel has seen a significant decrease in soccer rooms since 2013 and believes the new soccer complex will help make the county a soccer destination once again. “This piece of business can help fill hotels starting in mid-February, and help keep them filled until September,” he wrote.

Mark Simon, general manager of the Homewood Suites in Milford and the Hilton Garden in Miami Township, also supports the one-percent increase. “The number of room nights generated by the training center, development academy, showcases and tournaments is very significant and will have a real positive impact on our hotel occupancy at both properties,” Simon wrote in his letter of support.

The FC Cincinnati soccer complex to Milford is just one example of work we provide as the County’s professional destination and marketing organization, whose mission is to strengthen our community and local economy by generating economic growth and vitality through tourism, overnight stays, and visitor spending.

The CVB’s sports marketing strategy is designed to bring sporting events – such as soccer, baseball, softball, volleyball, rowing and other sports — and athletes of all ages to Clermont County. Our goal is to utilize our new and enhance our existing sport-related assets to attract professional and amateur sports teams and events, which in turn will bring visitors, hotel guests, and tourism dollars to our community.

These efforts include attracting large-scale sporting events, such as the 2015, 2016, and 2017 USRowing Club National Championships, which brought thousands of scullers from around the country to Lake Harsha at East Fort State Park for rowing competitions, and GeoWoodstock XVI, a geo-caching competition that attracted more than 9,000 people from all 50 states and more than 30 countries to Clermont County and Greater Cincinnati over the past Memorial Day weekend.

We recognize that professional and amateur sports are big business – business that we want to continue to bring to and keep in Clermont County.

Jeff Blom is President of The Clermont County Convention and Visitors Bureau.