Spring training delays could impact Southwest Florida’s economy

LEE COUNTY

Southwest Florida is in danger of not seeing full ballparks this spring. Major League Baseball spring training is in jeopardy because of the current lockout.

If these games don’t start on time, that could have a significant impact on our economy.

The sounds of baseball may be silent in Southwest Florida in 2022. As the MLB lockout continues, an air of uncertainty lingers over spring training status.

Michael DeNunzio owns Fine Folk Pizza. “We’re crossing our fingers that hopefully, they can work something out quick,” DeNunzio said.

Pitchers and catchers for the Tampa Bay Rays are scheduled to report to Port Charlotte on Feb. 15. Games are just weeks from beginning. Yet, no deal has been reached.

DeNunzio’s Fine Folk Pizza is just steps away from JetBlue Park, the spring training home of the Boston Red Sox. Players driving in runs means he drives in business.

You’ll see a sales pop of 30% on game days. You know, and at the end of the week, that could be thousands of dollars in lost revenue in a week for not having baseball here,” said DeNunzio. 

His business certainly isn’t the only one benefitting from baseball being in town. Southwest Florida sees millions of dollars worth of a boost to the local economy because of spring training.

Amir Neto is the director of the regional economic research institute at FGCU. “We’re in the middle of season already. But people who are coming to Spring Training specifically would not be necessarily coming here if not for the teams,” Neto said.

With the entire 2022 baseball season in doubt, he believes that if fans remain frustrated with the league, that could hurt Southwest Florida.

“These supporters that we see every year coming year to visit to see the training camp the new players and be invested in the team. It’s less likely we’ll see them if this passion starts to phase out,” said Neto.

DeNunzio is just rooting for the lockout to end. “Higher sales equals more raise opportunities for the team more tips. So we want this to happen,” DeNunzio said.

They want to bring the big bucks and the big names back to SWFL.

DeNunzio says his business is pushing ahead as if spring training is still happening. Last week, the MLB Players Association rejected an offer from Major League Baseball to bring in a federal mediator to assist with negotiations.

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