ESTERO, Fla. – The inaugural Gulf Coast Showcase, which features 16 college basketball programs from across the U.S., will have a significant economic impact approaching $750,000 on Southwest Florida when the event tips off Thanksgiving week, according to local tourism officials.
The event, actually two tournaments in one, features eight men’s teams (Nov. 25-27) followed by eight women’s teams (Nov. 29-Dec. 1) at the Germain Arena in Estero. All teams will play three games in a tournament format with the respective champions crowned in the final game.
For the Lee County and Collier County convention and visitors bureaus, the tournaments promise to elevate tourism at what has traditionally been a moderate period. While peak tourist season begins at Christmas, the two tournaments will fill a void in the calendar while also serving as a great marketing platform to 16 different collegiate markets around the United States. And NCAA rules permit teams to only participate in the same in-season tournament once every four years, which means that over the next four years, the event could reach 64 different markets around the country.
“We are excited to play host to this inaugural college basketball tournament at Germain Arena,” said Jeff Mielke, Lee County Sports Development director. “Not only will it generate economic impact during a traditionally slow week, but it will also bring national exposure to the Southwest Florida region.”
Fourteen of the 16 teams are flying to this year’s event, and all but two that are flying are arriving at the Southwest Florida International Airport. The teams will reside at the Waldorf Astoria in North Naples. Germain Arena, however, sits in Lee County, and more than two dozen game officials, media and additional fans will be housed at the Embassy Suites and other hotels near the arena.
“We are very pleased to welcome this new and exciting event to our region,” said Chris O’Brien, Senior Sports Marketing Manager for the Naples, Marco Island, Everglades CVB. “We are confident that the participants will have a great tournament and they also will find that Naples and Southwest Florida is the ideal place to relax and enjoy our Florida sunshine.”
With 800 to 1,000 visitors expected this first year, restaurants, hotels, rental car agencies and retail outlets should all benefit from the event. Consider the statistics:
- Most team travel parties are a minimum of 20 people; some will top 30
- Most teams, officials and fans will stay a minimum of four nights; given the Thanksgiving holiday, many of the fans and officials are booking longer stays
- According to CVB stats, the average adult tourist will spend more than $150 a day while in SW Florida
All totaled, CVB factors suggest that the total direct spending in Southwest Florida could be as much as $750,000. While significant, organizers estimate that the future years will likely be even more impressive financially for the region.
“This year’s event wasn’t finalized until early September, yet we already have the 2014 fields nearly set and we hope to announce them during our event next week,” said Brooks Downing, president of bd Global, the event organizer. “So once fans can better plan their trips in the future, once local and national sponsors identify and engage with this event, and once we secure either regional or national television coverage next year, the economic impact of this event will be extensive. And again, this is just the first year. We’ll organically grow these two tournaments and Southwest Florida will be the direct benefactor.”
A total of 24 games will be played during the event, 12 for each tournament. There are two doubleheader sessions each day of each tournament, beginning at noon and 6 p.m.
Tickets can be purchased at all Ticketmaster locations as well as the Capital Bank box office at Germain Arena. Tickets can be purchased by session or for the entire tournament. Per session ticket prices begin at $20 and all-session tickets start at $60. For ticket and hotel packages for both tournaments, visit www.gulfcoastshowcase.com. For group sales or sponsorship opportunities, interested parties should contact bd Global at 859-951-6141.
Three teams in the men’s field are off to impressive starts since the new season began Nov. 8. San Diego, St. Bonaventure and UNCG have all mounted good wins out of the gate. USD is unbeaten, having won four games to start the season, beating South Dakota State, Grand Canyon, Morgan State and Northern Kentucky. The Toreros have even played those last two games on the road in Maryland and Kentucky, so the trip to Ft. Myers will mark the team’s second trip to the East Coast in November.
St. Bonaventure won its first three games over South Dakota, Abilene Christian and Canisius, before suffering a two-point defeat at Siena. UNCG beat both High Point and Chowan and its only defeat came against East Carolina, 85-84. On Tuesday, ECU took No. 6 Duke to the wire before falling, 83-74. Wagner has begun the season 2-2 with its only losses coming at two BCS programs – Penn State and St. John’s.