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Sports tourism key to marketing Collier County after Irma

Posted at 6:51 PM, Dec 18, 2017
and last updated 2017-12-18 18:51:27-05

Collier County may have taken a beating from Hurricane rma when it made landfall on September 10, but Commissioner Penny Taylor wants the world to know that the county is back open for business - especially outside of peak season.

"What we're going to look at is, how do we keep our hotels and restaurants busy during the shoulder seasons," Taylor said Monday.

She said that the period right before Christmas is one of those "shoulder seasons." Attracting amateur sports leagues to play tournaments and championships to play in the area is a big part of the county's marketing strategy.

"This is the time of year when we certainly need some additional folks to stay in our hotels and so forth, so sports really works great for that," said Jack Wert of the Naples, Marco Island, and Everglades Convention and Visitors Buereau.

The Football University Championship has brought youth players and their families from across the United States to Collier County this week, for playoff games at Gulf Coast High School. A new sports complex is planned for the City Gate area near Interstate 75 and Collier Boulevard, which will be the new home for the FBU and other amateur sports championships when complete.

"The Football University event that we're doing this week is about a $3 million impact to the community," Wert said. "Virtually every hotel room is taken in Collier County."

But some parts of the county are still recovering from Irma, especially Everglades City. Several feet of storm surge left a thick layer of mud everywhere there, including inside homes.

Taylor said the key to rebuilding is to get homes above ground level.

"You don't rebuild them on the same level, especially if they've been flooded out," Taylor said. "Let's bring them up. And I'm hearing this from the folks in Everglades City, which is huge."