Some of the country's top college basketball teams were in Fort Myers this week for the debut of the Fort Myers Tip-Off Tournament at Suncoast Credit Union Arena. The games are televised nationally on FS1 - and Lee County officials are hoping the national exposure translates into big business.
The Lee County Visitor's and Convention Bureau will air several commercials during the games, highlighting area attractions such as the beaches. The county invested $200,000 for the promotion using bed tax dollars, which is revenue primarily from tourists staying at hotels.
"It's raising our national profile as a sports destination," said Jeff Mielke of Lee County Sports Development. "To have a nationally televised basketball event really raises our reputation."
After a rough summer of red tide and blue-green algae, Southwest Florida can use the boost in tourism. Drew Russell is vice-president of Intersport, the organization that brought the Tip-Off Tournament to Fort Myers. He said that boost is a big part of their objective.
"Our goal is to build an event where we're bringing people in, and we're brining commerce to Fort Myers and Southwest Florida," Russell said. "This is a market that can really support big-time athletics."
The first round of games were played Monday. With a day off for teams and fans from out of town to enjoy the beaches and other attractions, the tournament wrapped up Wednesday in time for Thanksgiving.
Intersport has an agreement with Lee County to continue hosting the tournament for the next four years.