NAPLES, Fla. — More than a thousand of the best youth football players in the country are in Naples this weekend fighting for a national championship.
As those kids battle on the field, their families are generating millions of dollars for our community.
Braylon Freeman plays for the Ginn Elite 10-and-under football team in Cleveland, Ohio, but the team is in Naples for the Football University (FBU) National Championships.
“We just work hard, that’s why we deserve to be down here,” Braylon said.
The event brings thousands of players, ages 9 to 16, to town for five days of football.
Forty two teams across five age brackets survived a nationwide tournament to earn the right to play in the finals in Naples.
“This is what he works for,” Samuel Singletary said of his son, Josiyah, who plays for Connecticut’s 10U team. “He works all year for his Pop Warner team, to be recognized on the big stage. He tries out, plays, and competes against some of the best kids in the state, in the country.”
Josiyah is among the best of the best competing at the Paradise Coast Sports Complex, which opened in 2020 in the City Gate complex near I-75 and Collier Blvd. in Naples.
Collier County spent $104.5 million on the complex in an attempt to increase its sports tourism industry.
FBU officials say this event, paired with this shiny new complex, is drawing in people from all over the country.
“We’ll have tams from LA to Boston, Indiana to Texas, Miami to Seattle, all right here in the Paradise Coast the next five days,” said Steven Quinn, a co-owner of FBU who moved the company to Naples from New Jersey three years ago.
Teams from 18 states are in Naples for FBU, and they’re thrilled to be here at this time of year.
“We're from Cleveland, Ohio,” said Antonio Jackson, coach of the Ginn Elite 10U team. “We just practiced in the snow last week, and now we’re in paradise.”
The Collier County’s Convention and Visitor’s Bureau says FBU is one of its biggest tourism draws of the year.
County officials said this event will generate roughly four thousand hotel room nights this year. That’s a direct economic impact of about $2 million for the people of Collier County.