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Fort Myers Beach business owners hopeful of spring training travelers as MLB implements lockout

Posted at 7:06 PM, Dec 02, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-02 19:06:59-05

FORT MYERS BEACH, Fla. — Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association have been unable to reach a new agreement overnight.

The result has lead to a lockout.

This lockout could delay the start of the MLB season and, more notably, spring training in Florida.

The MLB lockout could have quite a substantial impact on SWFL- both from a financial and economic standpoint. We are still more than two months away from scheduled spring training and if this lockout isn't resolved, it could potentially delay, shorten, cancel, or have no impact on it at all.

“Spring training for baseball is obviously a big thing. Everybody’s paying attention to the upcoming season.”

Baseball in Florida. It might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of the Sunshine State… but it actually has quite an impact on our local economy.

“We do see those fans come along with the teams being here, themselves.”

Jason Ingream is the owner of Mango Rita’s on Fort Myers Beach. He says with the current MLB lockout it could change who he sees in and out of his doors.

"We do get a lot of the spring trainees that come in," said Ingream. "Their families, the trainers come in. Hopefully the spring training still may happen. We’re hoping that’s a positive- that the people will still come and just it’ll be a quick in and out and they’ll sign the contracts and everything will be back to normal.”

There are four major league baseball teams who train in SWFL. You’ve got the Atlanta Braves in North Port, Tampa Bay Rays in Port Charlotte and both the Boston Red Sox and Minnesota Twins here in Fort Myers.

According to a 2019 report from the county spring training brings in about $69 million every year. Most of that money- about $56 million of it- is spent outside the ballpark at places like hotels and restaurants.

"It does increase traffic quite a bit when spring training is going on," said Ron Woidan, tour guide with All Island Watersports. "However, since the lockout, I’m not sure a lot of people will be wanting to come down here if they’re not going to be practicing and stuff.”

Woidan says a majority of their clientele are tourists, visiting from places like the midwest.

"We get a lot of people interested in going to those pre-games and watching the practices," he says. "Lot of snowbirds down here that want to watch those guys practice and go back up to home to watch them in the games.”

About 40% of travelers say they only come to SWFL because of spring training. This is the fourth lockout to happen in Major League Baseball history. The last three did not result in any regular-season games missed. But no matter the outcome with the lockout, there’s more to Florida than baseball.

"We got fishing, man," says Woidan. "We got jet ski tour guides, we got a good time no matter where you’re at down here. One of the things with baseball is it’s one of the things to do while you’re down here, but it’s not the main draw. Everybody knows it’s the nice water and the nice people. That’s what really draws people down here. So good times as well.”