NewsPolk County


Spring training in Tampa Bay boosting the local economy

Posted at 7:49 PM, Mar 18, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-21 05:07:34-04

LAKELAND, Fla. — Baseball is back in the Tampa Bay area, now that a labor agreement has been reached between players and owners.

Charlie’s family restaurant by Dee in Lakeland is just steps away from Tigertown, the spring training home, of the Detroit Tigers.

With the tigers' logo on right on the front door, it’s where many baseball fans find themselves grabbing a bite to eat before a game.

“You’ll get different teams, you'll have when the Yankees come the Yankees in their gear, then you’ll have the Detroit Tigers and they’ll be in their gear,” said Delicia “Dee” Ebare, owner of Charlie's Family Restaurant by Dee.

Ebare said the restaurant gets 35% busier during spring training.

“Very frustrating not to know what the outcome was going to be. If we were going to get a spring training at all. I honestly didn’t think we were going to get any spring training at all,” said Ebare.

While the Major League Baseball lockout slowed down her busiest time of year, she is hoping sales won’t strikeout for the rest of the season.

“I'm sure we’ll get some but not what I think we would’ve have had the lockout wouldn’t have happened,” Ebare said.

Spring training has become a key stream of revenue in Lakeland, accounting for $55 million for the local economy.

“$55 million dollars that goes to hotels, bars, restaurants, rental car agencies, things of that nature. It’s detrimental, so we’re so glad it’s back,” said Kevin Cook, the Director of Communications with the City of Lakeland.

The City of Lakeland said 70% of fans come from other states and Canada. Rick Gebhard has traveled from Michigan to Lakeland for the past 13 years to watch the ball game.

“Soon as they were available, we locked in the date and fortunately we picked a date that they decided to come and play,” Gebhard said.

From Lakeland to Clearwater, west-central Florida alone has eight of the 15 teams that make up the Florida Grapefruit League. According to a Florida Spring Training Economic Impact Study, in 2018 the Grapefruit League generated an economic impact of $687.1 million for the State of Florida.

“We didn’t know what was going to happen. We were kind of bummed out that we were going to miss spring training,” said Alyssa Ronan, Bartender at First Base Bar.

Ballpark vendors like First Base Bar, are a part of the economic engine, creating hundreds of seasonal jobs.

MLB announced a $1 million fund to support league workers who have been affected by canceled spring training games, including concession workers and grounds crew.

“That’s amazing that they’re able to help out the people that helped them so much because without all of these people this wouldn’t happen,” Ronan said.

The Detroit Tigers have 19 games scheduled, 10 of those will be played at home.