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Visit Jacksonville Wants To Attract More Sporting Events with Extra Funding

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Bill Bortzfield
/
WJCT News
Fans are pictured enjoying a Jumbo Shrimp home game last season. Visit Jacksonville is hoping to lure more sporting events to the city.

City leaders are trying to make Jacksonville one of the top destinations for sporting events.

A $350,000 bump in additional funding for Visit Jacksonville will go toward sports recruitment initiatives might help lure additional events.

With the additional money, Visit Jacksonville President and CEO Michael Corrigan believes the city can attract new events.

Corrigan said Wednesday it starts with rejoining sports associations, such as the Florida Sports Foundation, to get Jacksonville in the bidding process for different sporting events.

“We need to rejoin those and say ‘we’re glad to be back’,” Corrigan told WJCT News. “And we want you to come to Jacksonville and bring your tournaments or events or conferences.”

In those associations, cities can receive requests for proposals of different sporting events and pair them with potential venues that can host them.

Corrigan cited several sporting events the city has hosted one or more times that have provided an economic boost, like the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, the SEC Women’s Basketball Tournament, the annual Tax Slayer Gator Bowl and the USA Gymnastics Championship.

“We’re looking at going all the way down to the youth leagues,” Corrigan said. “There’s a tremendous business opportunity when you bring in new tournaments, whether it’s soccer or softball or baseball or even track.”

Corrigan also brought up Spartan Race Jacksonville, which he plans on the city hosting for at least the next two years, as well as the NCAA Men’s and Women’s Outdoor Track and Field Championships.

Apart from making money for the venues, Corrigan said the events also bring economic growth to local businesses.

“Tourism in general is a $3.2 billion industry in Jacksonville,” Corrigan explained. “As we continue to generate that, obviously you’re going to have increased room nights and hotels…but what people often forget is the restaurants and the attractions entertainment facilities that also benefit from when people come into town.”

Corrigan highlighted the Jacksonville Equestrian Center on the city’s Westside as an area they plan to expand on to attract more businesses to the area.

He said getting additional sports tournaments and events to come to the River City shouldn’t be too difficult.

“It’s a pretty easy pitch,” Corrigan said. “I mean, we’ve got the amazing river and the Atlantic Ocean, and that’s a pretty good place to start.”

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Credit BILL BORTZFIELD / WJCT NEWS
Visit Jacksonville President and CEO Michael Corrigan says the city's coastal location makes it any easy pitch to sporting events.

In 2019, City Council President Scott Wilson outlined his goal of creating more avenues for sports-related tourism in the city. He oversees the Duval County Tourism Development Council (TDC). Soon after entering the role, Wilson created a bill to appropriate additional funding toward exactly that.  

After getting green light from the City Council and the mayor’s office, the TDC approved the funding last week.

Corrigan – who served as a City Council member from 2003 to 2011 and then as the Duval County Tax Collector – said support from the city has been essential for this undertaking.

“It’s the major partners here in town talking to me and having conversations in meetings where we say ‘there’s opportunities here’,” Corrigan said. “How do we take advantage of this?”

The CEO said Visit Jacksonville is currently responding to four requests for proposals right now, which would begin bringing in new sporting events if accepted.

Sky Lebron can be reached at slebron@wjct.org, 904-358-6319 or on Twitter at @SkylerLebron