Sun, surf and sports? Those are the three “s” the Palm Beach County Sports Commission wants event planners and managers to think of when planning their sporting events across more than 40 disciplines.
“The Palm Beaches is the best way to experience Florida,” says Glen Allen, director of sports development for the commission. “From a sports standpoint, you’re getting some of the most first-class sports facilities, not only in Florida but in the United States.”
With an average annual temperature of 75 degrees and 47 miles of beaches, Palm Beaches offer both indoor and outdoor facilities year-round.
The two sports that get the most attention are golf and baseball. And over the next four years, Palm Beach County will host five national golf championships.
“Baseball definitely has a huge identity here. We have two spring training venues that each host two teams,” Allen says.
In fact, one of those venues, FITTEAM Ballpark of the Palm Beaches, was the spring training home for 2019 World Series competitors Washington Nationals and Houston Astros. The other, Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium, is the spring training home of the Miami Marlins and St. Louis Cardinals.
Venues to Know
The PBC Sports Commission works in conjunction with the county’s cultural council, film and television commission and destination marketing organization to bring in new visitors beyond the golf and baseball worlds.
For Allen, that partnership means thinking outside the box with sports visitors. This year, the International Polo Club hosted 450 high school girl’s lacrosse teams for the Intercollegiate Women's Lacrosse Coaches Association President’s Cup, and the association’s annual meeting will be held at the Palm Beach County Convention Center.
“One polo field can fit six lacrosse fields and there are seven polo fields on-site, so between that facility and one across the street, we will have 60 lacrosse fields laid out for this event,” Allen says. “We believe this is the largest amateur lacrosse tournament in the world, and we’re projecting that to drive 15,000 room nights over that weekend.”
Another diverse facility in Palm Beach County is Okeeheelee Park, which features baseball diamonds, multipurpose fields, tennis courts, pickleball courts, a competitive water ski course, a BMX track, 27 holes for golf and a newly added wakeboarding park.
From the tourism side of things, Palm Beach County is drawing in visitors not just for a regular beach experience, but also for ecotourism.
“We have an Environmental Resource Management Division as part of the county, and they’ve done a great job of creating man-made reefs in our ocean and waterways. You can just step in the water and swim through hundreds of acres of man-made reefs and see all the beauty of the fish and wildlife,” Allen says.
That, along with Everglades National Park access, outdoor centers and water sports are some of the key features the PBC Sports Commission tries to highlight when it bids for events, generally one to three years ahead of the play date.
Palm Beach County also uses its proximity to Miami to draw in visitors. For example, when the 2020 Super Bowl is held at Hard Rock Stadium, Allen’s team will help its sister tourism agencies promote the Palm Beach area to have Superbowl attendees stay there and attend the game in Miami.
“We also have some things going on with Inter Miami, the new MLS team starting this year,” Allen says. The Major League Soccer team is considering spending training time in Palm Beach, and potentially hosting a preseason match there.
“The relationship side of this business is so important,” Allen says. “You build a trust factor overtime, and you need to have great relationships with your venues, hotels and attractions because you’re all in this thing together and you need them to help sell your destination.”
One edge that Palm Beach County has on the relationship front is its high-end clientele.
From famous parents taking their children to the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center—Bill Gates, Bruce Springsteen and Michael Bloomberg—to sports stars who live or have lived in the area, such as Tiger Woods, Venus and Serena Williams, Rory McIlroy, Joe Girardi, Anquan Boldin, Coco Gauff and Lexi Thompson, the commission has plenty of star power to feature in its marketing videos.
“They understand the value of sports tourism to our community,” Allen says. “They help tell a story about why the Palm Beaches is the best place to stay.”