Whether you agree the Lee County Commission made a wise decision when it decided to keep Boston Red Sox spring training business or believe the bed tax money used to fund the $77.8 million facility on Fenway South Drive in Fort Myers could have been better spent, baseball's economic impact on the economy is quantifiable.
The Governor's Office, citing analysis by Bonn Marketing Research Group of Tallahassee, puts the economic benefit to the state at $753 million a year.
More than 1.6 million fans attended 233 games at 14 Florida locations during the 2012 Grapefruit League season, according to an April 19 release from Gov. Rick Scott. This set a new per-game attendance record with an average of 6,965 fans attending games during March with only three rainouts the entire time.
Charlotte Sports Park in Port Charlotte?10 miles from Gasparilla Island drew 87,916 in attendance for a 5,495 average per game. The largest crowd - no surprise - was 7,826, versus the Boston Red Sox, Sunday, March 18.
JetBlue Park, first-year home of the Boston Red Sox, took top billing in its first season, with the Scott report noting it has more seating than City of Palms Park and "total attendance increased by more than 30,000 fans and added nearly 2,000 fans per game."
JetBlue Park attendance "totaled 151,417 fans in 16 games for an average of 9,464 per game," according to Scott's report, with the largest crowd of 10,002 coming April 2 when the Red Sox took on the Washington Nationals.
Teams throughout Florida posted strong attendance as well.
Five Florida Spring Training teams - the Atlanta Braves, Baltimore Orioles, Detroit Tigers, Miami Marlins and Minnesota Twins (whose Spring Training facilities also are in Lee County ) - surpassed 100,000 in total attendance while three others - the Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees and Philadelphia Phillies - all topped 150,000.
That's a lot of peanuts and Cracker Jacks.
- Gasparilla Gazette editorial