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College tourneys: big bucks for Florida communities

The pro game isn't the only game in town when it comes to springtime in Florida. Across the state, college teams — and their families — are pumping millions of dollars in the local economy.

When the Los Angeles Dodgers shifted spring operations to Arizona and no other MLB stepped in to fill the void, Vero Beach locals were distraught about losing baseball.

But they didn't: MiLB struck a lease for Dodgertown and Holman Stadium and embarked on a plan to use the historic facility for college and high-school tourneys.

Smart choice. While college tourneys don't have the allure of a MLB spring-training game, they're probably a more reliable source of revenue for a community. Take, for example, the Snowbird Classic, held in Charlotte County and Gulf Island areas. Now in its second year, the tournament drew 20 northern teams to the Port Charlotte area over the course of a month, and local officials estimated the teams (and their families) were responsible for more than $2 million in new spending.

We're not talking about any huge undertaking: Snowbird Classic games are played on high-school fields and give college teams the chance to work out the kinks before the regular-season starts. It's not an effort that requires any big-buck investments. 

Multiply the Snowbird Classic by the many former spring-training fields hosting college and high-school baseball — Al Lang Field, Jack Russell Stadium, Chain of Lakes Park, Terry Park — and you have baseball providing a very tangible economic impact to the state. The Florida Sports Commission annually tallies the economic impact of spring training in the Sunshine State: we'd love to see the commission tackle the impact of these tourneys as well.

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