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Covid-19 has changed so many aspects of our lives. Where we eat. How we shop. And even how we play.
In an interview with St. Pete Catalyst publisher Joe Hamilton, Visit St. Pete Clearwater COO Tim Ramsberger talked about the devastating financial impact of Covid-related cancellations by amateur sports leagues that were scheduled to host events in Pinellas County.
“Between mid-March and June, we lost over 26 events,” Ramsberger said.
Those events would have brought in 40,000 visitors and covered 20,000 room nights. The lost revenue totaled $10 million, and that number doesn’t include missed opportunities for future financial gain. That’s because these types of events can also lead to repeat businesses from attendees who visit the area with their teams and end up coming back as leisure travelers, Ramsberger said.
The good news, he noted, is that he’s starting to see sports programming coming back. He’s encouraged that people are returning to softball venues, especially in Clearwater. That activity alone has brought 10,000 people into the marketplace, along with a $3 million economic impact.
“There’s pent-up demand,” he observed. “I’ve been on webinars and other panelists are saying people want to get back to amateur sports programming. Kids want it. Their parents want it. The question is, is it safe?”
Safety is Ramsberger’s number-one concern, and he said he’s been in regular contact with leaders from other municipalities and privately run sports facilities to talk about best practices and develop operating guidelines.
“Moving forward, it will be about adaptation, alignment and innovation with an eye toward what sports programming will be like once we emerge,” he said.
What will that look like? Ramsberger predicts we might see more events being consolidated, such as concerts coupled with airshows. He said there also may be more regionalism in terms of sporting events and not as much national travel.
One of his main concerns, Ramsberger said, is the potential for bankruptcy among some Olympic sports and the trickle-down effect it could have on those sports at both the collegiate and high school levels.
“Will those opportunities still be around?” he mused. “The long term impacts still haven’t been felt, and no one has a clear understanding on how we will deal with it.”
However, Ramsberger is optimistic that amateur sports will weather the Covid-19 storm and come out stronger as a result.
“I’m hopeful that long-term we’ll be better off in terms of withstanding events like these,” he said. “This is going to be our opportunity to be smart about the future of amateur sports.”