MLB spring training an economic home run in Florida, Arizona

Florida and Arizona split spring training hosting duties among MLB’s 30 teams

With the start of Major League Baseball’s 2020 spring training campaign just days away, the states of Florida and Arizona are counting on another economic boost from the annual event.

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Florida and Arizona split spring training hosting duties among MLB’s 30 teams. Half of the league plays in Florida’s Grapefruit League, while the other half plays in Arizona’s Cactus League.

State officials have routinely touted the positive economic effects associated with spring training. The exhibition games and other festivities annually draw hundreds of thousands of fans and associated spending.

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In 2018, the Arizona Cactus League generated an estimated economic impact of more than $644 million, according to an impact study performed by Arizona State University. State officials said the Cactus League supported 6,400 jobs, generated $31 million in overall tax revenue and $373 million in gross domestic profit.

“We have studied the economic impact of major sporting events in Arizona like the Super Bowl and the Final Four, and while they create massive economic impact, they occur here intermittently,” Anthony Evans, senior researcher at Arizona State University’s Seidman Research Institute, said in a statement at the time. “The Cactus League brings in impact of this magnitude every year. It is phenomenal – and it happens every spring in this state.”

About 1.77 million fans attended Cactus League games in 2018, according to the study.

Officials in Florida are similarly bullish on the Grapefruit League’s annual economic impact. In 2018, the Grapefruit League generated an economic impact of $687.1 million across 12 cities in Florida, according to a state-commissioned study conducted by Tallahassee-based Downs & St. Germain Research.

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The Grapefruit League supported more than 7,000 jobs and attracted $584 million in fan spending that year, according to the study.

“We are pleased with the continued success of the Florida Grapefruit League and look forward to many more exciting opportunities to showcase the many communities in Florida, where the world comes to play,” Angela Suggs, president of the Florida Sports Foundation, said in a statement at the time.

The Grapefruit League’s perceived economic benefits are at the heart of ongoing negotiations on a state bill that would limit the use of tax revenue to cover stadium upgrades. While the bill has received widespread support among local legislators to date, some have raised concerns about the potential impact on Florida’s spring training industry.

Spring training’s slate of exhibition games for the 2020 season kicks off later this month in both states.

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