You ask most people about Seminole County and they’d be hard-pressed to tell you where it’s located in the Sunshine State. Based just north of Orlando’s Orange County, with cities like Sanford and Altamonte Springs, Seminole County is home to approximately 460,000 residents and the Central Florida Zoo.
One of the biggest draws for traditional sports is the Boombah Sports Complex—the 102-acre 15 field facility with nine synthetic turf fields can be configured into multiple sizes that fit baseball and softball, soccer, lacrosse, field hockey, football and six natural turf fields for baseball and softball, plus batting cages and a playground.
Danny Trosset, director of sports tourism at Orlando North, Seminole County Tourism
, is a 33-year-old Florida native. Yes, his parents met at Disney and he is now a father of three. Trosset talks about how he got his start in sports, created a nonprofit for sports-loving kids and got more tourists to visit Seminole County.
How did you get into sports for a living?
I grew up playing sports: baseball, basketball and soccer. In high school [Bishop Moore Catholic High School] I asked my guidance counselor if there was a career I could pursue in sports. I was told how Flagler College, in St. Augustine, had a great sports management program. It’s only an hour and a half away from Orlando, in the nation’s oldest city and less than two miles from the beach. I loved being outdoors.
After graduating, I took a six-month unpaid internship with the Central Florida Sports Commission and got to work on the NCAA women’s bowling championship. Eventually, they created a position for me and I was hired on full-time. We also hosted Wrestlemania
in Orlando, which was pretty awesome. Then in 2008, I took the job with Seminole County.
What are some lesser-known things to do in Seminole County?
We have some unbelievable nature-based recreation and wilderness areas. Wekiva Island on the Wekiva River has great swimming areas and places to kayak. You can go air boating on Lake Jesup with Black Hammock. Downtown Sanford has really cool farm-to-table restaurants like the Smiling Bison, where everything is made from scratch using local produce from area farms. There are also about six microbreweries within a four-block radius. It’s becoming like Asheville, North Carolina.
Sanford also has the Boombah Sports Complex. All the synthetic fields are in a baseball dimension, but they were built wide enough for rectangular field sports. We have temporary mounds that can be removed so when girls fast pitch, they can pitch on a flat surface on the turf. We hosted The National Field Hockey Coaches Association’s Top Recruit Winter Escape in 2017 with more than 95 women's field hockey teams and 500 college coaches and are going to host it again in 2019. We’ve also hosted Perfect Game’s Super 25 National Championship for U-13, U-14, U-15 and U-17.
Why and how did you rebrand Seminole County?
Very few people understood where our county was located. We would go to trade shows and conferences and perspective clients or event organizers didn't know where Seminole county was. Some people thought it was on an Indian reservation. Some people thought we were affiliated with the Florida State Seminoles in Tallahassee. If we wanted to drive more traffic to our website and get more visitors, we knew we needed to rebrand and promote ourselves as a different side of Central Florida.
We did some focus group research and quickly realized many of our hotels, like Hyatt Place Lake Mary Orlando North, were already identifying and associating themselves as Orlando North. It took about a year for us to rebrand our marketing to become Orlando North Seminole County and we started using the hashtag #DoOrlandoNorth.
What has happened since you launched in the campaign in 2015?
At first, some of the local businesses were apprehensive because they wanted to be different from Orlando. Some folks thought we were changing our name, even though we weren't. They didn't want anything to do with Orlando and thought it was a terrible idea. But once businesses started seeing stronger numbers and more visitors started coming from different places, they wanted us to keep doing what we were doing. We needed to keep driving more people to our destination and it took a little time. After three years, it’s been unbelievable the growth we’ve seen and people are happy now.
Can you quantify the kind of growth you’ve seen?
We saw about a 53 percent increase in website traffic. Our hotel occupancy rates went from 66.7 percent in 2014 to 69.8 percent a year later, going up to 74.6 percent in 2017. Our ADR [average daily rate] numbers have also gone up from $76.09 in 2014 to $82.11 in 2015 to $94.39 in 2017.
What’s something that a lot of people don’t know about you?
I started nonprofit called Sports4Kids. Every single penny that we raise goes to providing a scholarship to financially disadvantaged kids in the central Florida area who want to play sports. A lot of kids can't afford to participate in local sports because of the registration fees. There are so many families and parents that just automatically assume they can’t afford to put my kids into sports like Pop Warner or Little League.
We raise funds and award partial scholarships, so if there’s a $150 fee, and we'll pay $75 and then it's up the parents to pay the additional $75. In 2018 we've already awarded over 200 scholarships, doubling the number we did in 2017. One of our founding board members was Stan Van Gundy, when he was coach of the Orlando Magic because he lived in Lake Mary. We also do sports equipment collection drives.