PETER WILLOTT/St. Augustine Record
"Sports Commission Needs to Stand in Line
World Golf Village President Jack Peter would like to see a new county panel. Its mission would be to look at opportunities for more sports-related events in the area.
Sporting events are generally clean, family-oriented affairs, and certainly might be something to look at. Peters told Tourist Development Council members this week that a local sports commission “creates a group of people who would wake up every day thinking about it.”
The problem with this type of commission is that it generally wakes up thinking about the upside of these sporting events and rarely about the downside.
It is not surprising that the World Golf Village would like to see more events. Sports-induced visitors generally have an interest in sports-centric venues, such as the World Golf Village.
Peter’s discussion touched on involving the TDC in the effort. That, presumably, would be in the area of bankrolling the commission’s work.
Once there’s an opportunity to grab hold of, it generally follows that taxpayer TDC dollars are spent to subsidize these sporting events in the best of cases; building venues in the worst of them.
There’s nothing intrinsically bad about sporting events and venues. But enticing them is not a one-size-fits-all endeavor.
St. Johns County has some high-end events as is, not the least of which is The Players Championship (Though someone needs to tell the commentators and the guys in the blimp that it does not reside in “Jacksonville.”).
And our county naturally benefits from the overflow from Duval County sporting events. Look at the Georgia-Florida team buses parked outside local hotels in November. The same holds true for Volusia County to the south. Ever drive downtown during Bike Week?
Point is, we benefit without hosting or financing these events. And if we’re going to spend taxpayer dollars on promoting something, why not spend it on what we already have — as in history and the ocean beaches?
Peter said implementing a sports commission would take the support of the business community and the commission itself. He said, “My sense is that they would embrace it because more tourism and more heads in beds and more economic activity is a good thing.”
Our question is, for whom? And the easy answer is — for the business community. We have a vibrant one. But our sense is that residents recognize that there’s a tipping point at which tourism detracts from quality of life — and that we’re already there, especially in St. Augustine.
For so many struggling Florida counties tourism could be “the answer.” But St. Johns County is on the downside of the evolutionary curve.
We’ve been there, done that and, we believe, residents would agree that quality trumps quantity in terms in the hierarchy of tourism endeavor.
A volunteer sports commission is not, in and of itself, a bad idea. But a livability commission might be a better fit. And there’s some real justice in spending visitor dollars to mitigate the very real local financial burdens of “making money” off them."