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Prose and Kohn

Premier Sports Campus of Lakewood Ranch focuses on economic impact

Youth events are easier to land than professional ones and bring a sizable impact to the area, Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Executive Director Bureau Elliott Falcione says.

Brandin Gallaway takes a corner kick for Braden River Soccer Club during a practice at Premier Sports Campus in July 2023. Elliott Falcione said youth soccer will continue to be a cornerstone of the facility's schedule in the coming years.
Brandin Gallaway takes a corner kick for Braden River Soccer Club during a practice at Premier Sports Campus in July 2023. Elliott Falcione said youth soccer will continue to be a cornerstone of the facility's schedule in the coming years.
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The Premier Sports Campus schedule is as loaded as ever, but don't expect to see too professional level events at its playing fields and stadium in the future. 

Elliott Falcione, the executive director of Manatee County's Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, which runs Premier Sports Campus, said Premier's focus is on bringing economic impact to the area, however that may come. While the 140-acre campus has hosted important events at its stadium, which seats approximately 3,000 people, in the past, including the 2017 Men's and Women's Nike International Friendlies soccer events, Falcione said its main focus will never be events of that scale. 

The reasons are several, Falcione said, but a main one is that there are less of those events to go around, and many of the events that do come to the area will elect to be held at Bradenton's IMG Academy, which has dorms where players and coaches can stay while visiting. Premier does not have the same type of infrastructure, Falcione said, and it does not make financial sense to add it when it is bringing in consistent business from youth events and select amateur events, like the United States Australian Football League tournament it hosted in October. 

The strategy has been working. Falcione said the campus is generating $40 to $45 million per year in economic impact to the local economy. 

"We're focused on any kind of out-of-town business that stimulates the economy, whether it is professional, international or stateside," Falcione said. "Sometimes, we have to pick our poison on what might be the higher revenue (event)."

Will Frentz and the U.S. Deaf Men's National Team used Premier Sports Campus for training in January 2023. The team held private practices but no scrimmages or friendlies open to fans while in the area.
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Although the campus will take many types of events, Falcione said soccer events are among the easiest to set up and have the most options, which is why Premier hosts so many of them. Falcione said he expects to host more flag football and lacrosse events in the future as well, as those sports continue to grow nationwide. Falcione said the appeal of out-of-state events is exposing people to the Bradenton-Sarasota area for the first time. Falcione said 74% of sports parents who visit the area for the first time will return within 12 months, ensuring that even more money is spent in the area beyond a given event's duration. 

On occasion, Falcione said, the campus will also host local non-sports events like the Lakewood Ranch Business Alliance's 34th-annual Hob Nob BBQ, which PSC hosted on Dec. 6, and the Suncoast Winefest, which it hosted in September. The campus is also adding a permanent, 6,500-square foot framed tent which can host things like lunches, dinners and chamber events. 

One thing not on the docket for Premier: Concerts. Falcione said the campus wants to be respectful to its neighbors in the evening, and a concert held at the location's stadium would likely be too noisy. 

While Premier will not be adding infrastructure to host professional events any time soon, there will be additions coming to the area. Plans for the Premier Park Racquet and Aquatic Complex, which will feature a 50-meter pool and 24 pickleball courts among other amenities, are progressing. Falcione said he is excited for those facilities to open so the area can host an even wider variety of events. The hope, Falcione said, is that some of those events will be primarily for locals instead of out-of-state travelers, something that is not the case for many of Premier's events. 

The current Premier facilities will continue to receive improvements. Last year, Premier's stadium received an upgrade to its lighting. It now has the same type of lights — LEDs provided by Musco Lighting — that Bradenton's LECOM Park has, which Falcione said is important for organizations hoping to livestream their events at night. Falcione said additional fields will also see their lighting upgraded this year, allowing more games to be held at night. Falcione said the facility will also redesign its parking lot to create 400 more spaces and a drop-off circle at the main entrance. Premier will also add 3,000-square foot locker rooms near its offices for teams that require them. All of these upgrades, Falcione said, come via customer requests.

Elliott Falcione said Premier Sports Campus could pursue a naming rights deal for its stadium in the future.
File photo

"If you listen to the customer and add based on their feedback, it goes a long way," Falcione said. "It keeps you at the top of their mind." 

Another avenue for Premier to bring in supplementary money? Stadium naming rights. In 2017, the campus announced a naming rights deal with the Tampa-based American Integrity Insurance Group, though Falcione said the two sides ultimately could not agree on the finer details of the deal and nothing materialized. Falcione said the campus is still open to a naming rights deal if the right opportunity presents itself. 

While Premier is keeping busy, it is also careful not to overdo things, as the quality of its fields is one of its biggest selling points to host events. Falcione said several factors go into maintaining the "five-star" facilities, including how often it rains. Individual fields are evaluated week to week. For the Lakewood Ranch Chargers, who call Premier their home for games and practices, that can mean practicing on field seven one day, then field nine for several days, before going back to field seven. 

"You can't get too greedy," Falcione said. "But will we stress that grass for economic stimulus? Absolutely." 

If economic impact is the name of the game, Premier Sports Campus is winning. Just don't expect to see too many big-time names at the facility in the near future. 



Ryan Kohn

Ryan Kohn is the sports editor for Sarasota and East County and a Missouri School of Journalism graduate. He was born and raised in Olney, Maryland. His biggest inspirations are Wright Thompson and Alex Ovechkin. His strongest belief is that mint chip ice cream is unbeatable.

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