The tip of Space Mountain is hardly the limit for the Kissimmee Sports Commission. Since forming in 2015 as an offshoot of Experience Kissimmee, the official tourism bureau for Osceola County, Florida, the commission has only been driving numbers up.
Consider sports events accounted for roughly 58,000 room nights in that inaugural year. Projections suggest that number will reach more than 100,000 room nights in fiscal year 2018-19. The economic impact is measured at $65 million this year, as well.
“It’s been a fantastic journey,” says John Poole, executive director of Kissimmee Sports Commission. “The sky really is the limit… until we hit the sky.”
A much smaller number pleases Poole, who’s been with the commission since day one. There are now five staff members—four more than when the commission launched. The larger team has benefitted Kissimmee well, helping attract a wide variety of events across a myriad of sports.
“We have such a diverse portfolio of events,” says Poole. “That really is our strength.”
Coming from a position of strength has allowed Poole and company to be selective or, as he puts it, “shrewd.” Minutes from Walt Disney World Resort, SeaWorld Parks and Resorts Orlando, LEGOLAND Florida Resort, Gatorland and many other man-made and natural attractions, Kissimmee is an attractive destination for any event organizer, let alone leisure traveler. With only so many weeks in the calendar, the commission seeks out events with the most ROI.
The most obvious measure of achievement is room nights. But there’s also international exposure and repeat business—the best sign of satisfaction.
“It’s one thing bringing in new business and another thing retaining existing portfolio and we’ve done both,” says Poole.
Indeed, that 100,000-room night statistic is comprised of established events like the American Youth Football and Cheer National Championship (13,000 spectators; 18,000 room nights) and the Battle Orlando Flag Football World Championship Tour (700 teams; 9,000 room nights)—winners of as well as newcomers like Major League Fishing and Tropical Rugby International Youth Sevens. A testament to Kissimmee's hard work is that the region was represented with four winners of 2019 Connect Sports Tourism Excellence Awards.
The variety extends to established sports like basketball—hello, Jr. NBA Global Championship—and quirkier options like paintball—NXL Paintball World Cup, with 3,500 participants from more than 50 counties.
“It really captures your imagination,” says Poole of the variety of events hosted.
There’s more to come, too. Private investors have expressed interest in building new facilities in Kissimmee, opening the door to even more business.
“We’ll keep growing until we can't anymore,” says Poole.