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Here's how sports leagues in Florida impact the economy and you

Marc Johnston is a Professor of Marketing in the Crummer Graduate School of Business at Rollins College. (photo: Marc Johnston LinkedIn)
Marc Johnston
Marc Johnston is a Professor of Marketing in the Crummer Graduate School of Business at Rollins College.

The Florida Sports Foundation estimates pro sports account for more than 50,000 jobs around the state.

The NFL preseason is underway. The hope is that football fans in the Orlando area will be just as excited about the XFL, a minor league set to begin in February. 

WMFE’s Talia Blake spoke with Mark Johnston, marketing professor at the Crummer Graduate School of Business at Rollins College, about how sports leagues impact the economy and you.


Florida has dozens of professional sports teams at various levels of competition, including the NBA's Orlando Magic and Major League Soccer's Orlando City SC. 

According to the Florida Sports Foundation, professional sports has an economic footprint of $5.3 billion and accounts for more than 50,000 jobs in the state.  

“If you add in the ticket sales, the merchandise sales and all of that,” Johnston said. “It’s a substantial amount of money across all the teams.”

Between inflation, housing and all the other expenses people are dealing with, is going to a game not that affordable?

“If we focus on the (NBA's Orlando) Magic. They have some seats that are very expensive, but they also sell a number of seats, particularly in the upper tiers, that are much more affordable,” said Johnston.

But, he said, the challenge is everything you buy outside of your game ticket.

“Then you’re going to eat, then you’re going to park, and then you’re going to spend a lot of money,” explained Johnston. “So, when you say ‘well, can you afford the game’ you also have to factor in all the other costs that are going to be associated with going to the game.”

XFL vs. Other Minor League Teams

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and his partners are bringing the XFL to the Sunshine State with a team in Orlando coached by former NFL player Terrell Buckley.

Many Orlando fans lost out on money when the American Alliance of Football, a previous minor league, abruptly folded in 2019 before completing its 10-week season and championship game. At the time, the Orlando Apollos had the league's best record at 7-1.

Johnston believes that won’t happen during the XFL season due the ownership structure of the franchise.

“Dwayne Johnson and his partners have structured it more as they are going to own the teams, as opposed to previous leagues, like the (defunct Arena Football's Orlando) Predators, where they really were targeting local ownership,” he said.

“And the challenge around particularly new sports leagues is, if you have eight teams, for example, in the XFL. If for some reason one or two of those teams go under, then you don’t really have a league anymore. So their idea is let’s keep control and ownership, corporate, and then hopefully, they’ll be better funded.”

Leagues and Impact

Florida is home to 11 major professional sports franchises in five major sports league s (NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL and MLS), The Magic and Orlando City are among those franchises, but Johnston said it’s hard to attract new franchises.

“When you look at the NFL, the state of Florida already has three franchises. They’ve got Jacksonville, they’ve got Tampa and they’ve got Miami,” explained Johnston. “So, it’s very hard for the NFL, when you look at the country, and they’re like, ‘Where are we going to put the next NFL franchise?’ It’s hard to say we’re gonna put one in Orlando.”

He said the same goes for Major League Baseball, “When you look at major league baseball, we’ve got Tampa (and) Miami. So, it’s very tough for Orlando, given our location, to attract some of the major leagues.”

Incentives, like tax breaks, can often persuade a franchise to moving to a certain city. But Johnston said, “historically, Florida in general, and Orlando, in particular, have not been overly aggressive in offering those kinds of breaks.”

Johnston said the state will provide a few incentives. “Usually what they’ll do, particularly if the stadium is owned by the city, they will give them a break on things like rent, they will give them perhaps a greater percentage of revenue back as opposed to taking some of that revenue from the as they normally would,” he explained. “So often the breaks may not be related to a tax break per se, but could be related to other things that would just essentially drive additional revenue back to the team.”

Copyright 2022 WMFE. To see more, visit WMFE.

Talia Blake
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