Central Florida vies for $242M in future sports biz


If a new Orange County committee plays its cards right, the region may host two major sports events with the potential to bring in hundreds of millions of dollars in new .

The county’s tourist development sports incentive committee — a group that began meeting this month to help vet the best uses of resort taxes for sporting events — approved two inaugural proposals that could result in more than $242 million in economic impact: the 2022 Special Olympics and WrestleMania.

Tourist development taxes, also known as resort taxes, are fees collected by Orange County garnered from hotel/motel room or other short-term lodging sales. Those taxes go toward funding the region’s tourism and marketing agency Visit ; renovations and enhancements to the Orange County Convention Center; and upgrades to local venues like Camping World Stadium.

“Both of these opportunities meet the goals for Orange County,” Central Florida Sports Commission CEO Jason Siegel told county leaders at the April 9 meeting. “These achieve returns on investment of the tourist development tax; it attracts [high-level] sports events to the region and supports our tourism industry.”

Meanwhile, the two events would be major for Central Florida as they carry national exposure on television and social media, as well as help generate economic growth. National exposure also can result in encouraging more tourism- or business-related visitation to the region.

In addition, sporting events are vital to the region and often translate into vacations, providing more business for the region’s $60 billion tourism and travel industry.

Orange County’s sports incentive committee began this first year with $5 million in resort taxes to allocate for sporting events, with an additional $2 million added each year. Any funds not used during the year are carried forward to the next year.

Here’s more about the sporting events in play:

  • 2022 Special Olympics: The local organizing group for the future event is requesting $2 million in resort taxes to bring the games to Orlando. The games would result in as much as $61 million in economic impact, 57,000 hotel room nights and draw nearly 100,000 spectators, families, coaches and athletes. The games would be spread across the region in various venues, Joe Dzaluk, president and CEO of Orlando’s Special Olympics bid entity, told the county board at the April 9 meeting. Games would be hosted at Disney’s ESPN Wide World of Sports, the YMCA Aquatic Center on International Drive, the U.S. Tennis Association’s USTA National Campus in Lake Nona, local bowling venues and more.
  • WrestleMania: The Central Florida Sports Commission is working to bring back the marquee professional wrestling event that came here last April at downtown Orlando’s Camping World Stadium. The commission requested $1 million in resort taxes for the event owned and operated by the World Wrestling Entertainment Inc. (NYSE: WWE). Last year, WrestleMania 33 resulted in more than $161 million in economic impact, drawing more than 75,000 fans to Camping World Stadium; attracting 150,000 people to WWE’s related citywide events at venues like the convention center; and generating more than 50,000 hotel room nights. WWE is in the process of selecting host cities for the event between 2021 through 2025, but the best chance for Orlando to land the event may be 2023 or 2025, based on convention center availability.