Want to make sure your meeting hits a home run? Consider Florida, where an unusually high number of high-end sports venues promise world-class facilities and the views and action that smack events out of the park.
With three National Football League teams, two Major League Baseball teams, two National Basketball Association teams, two National Hockey League teams, two Major League Soccer teams, one National Women’s Soccer League team and many minor league teams in various sports—whew!—there’s no shortage of sporting events for groups to be part of in Florida.
Add to that the Daytona 500, a 500-mile NASCAR Cup Series motor race held annually in Daytona Beach at Daytona International Speedway. Here, groups can host elegant receptions at the 9,088-square-foot luxury Rolex Lounge and 23 Midway Suites overlooking the speedway. Rental of the lounge includes a large outdoor patio (3,221 square feet), giving guests a chance to step outside to thrill in the view of the 2.5-mile tri-oval speedway.
“We hosted 800 members of Delta Sigma Theta’s sorority at Daytona International Speedway and they loved it!” said Linda McMahon, the Daytona Beach Area CVB’s director of group sales. “They enjoyed the luxury Rolex 24 Lounge for a special celebration and they also utilized all 10,126 square feet of the Midway Suites. It’s a great off-the-beach meeting space with hotels within walking distance.”
If a group happens to be in downtown St. Petersburg in March, they won’t be able to miss the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg taking place right on the waterfront street course in downtown. Widely considered the most respected motorsports event in North America, it features a week-long festival-like atmosphere that includes racing, celebrity athletes, live entertainment and interactive activities, games and exhibits, driver autograph sessions, a fan village and a beer garden.
Orlando City Stadium
The Tampa Bay Rowdies
Soccer seems to be getting more and more popular in Florida, with Tampa Bay Rowdies matches drawing roaring crowds to Al Lang Stadium in St. Petersburg since 2010. There’s also the Orlando City Soccer Club’s Lions, which played their first match in downtown Orlando on March 5, 2017 to a crowd of more than 25,000 spectators.
Groups can rent out the Audi Party Suite, located on the private suite level on the west side of the stadium. Guests can even enter through the VIP entrance. Suites feature a private indoor space for entertaining and outdoor seating. All seats provide exceptional views of the pitch and Orlando skyline.
Available on a game-by-game basis, Audi Sports Club offers a capacity for 75 and serves food, beer, wine and sodas.
In January 2018, Major League Soccer announced that Miami would be home to the league’s 25th franchise with soccer legend David Beckham as one of the team’s owners. The Miami team will begin competing in 2020 in a temporary venue until it moves into a 25,000-seat stadium in 2021.
“Soccer’s a natural fit for Miami, gateway to the Americas,” said Barry Moskowitz, vice president of sales and industry relations for the Greater Miami CVB. “It’s entertainment like this that continues to enhance the customer experience while visiting our destination. The new team, Inter Miami CF, soon to be at the new stadium [Freedom Park]—coupled with the star power of David Beckham—is a trifecta for residents and visitors alike.”
Three National Football League Venues
Florida is also home to three National Football League teams: the Miami Dolphins, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Jacksonville Jaguars. At TIAA Bank Field, the Jaguars offer traditional suites within the US Assure Club as well as one-of-a-kind group experiences. The north end zone deck is home to the world-famous Axalta spas, where groups can cool off in the Florida sun. The Nexgrill Sky Patio Tailgate Cabana lets groups of any size access the stadium before the game for an all-inclusive food and beverage tailgate experience.
Daily’s Place, adjacent to TIAA Bank Field, houses two unique event spaces under one roof. The team’s indoor practice facility boasts a football field for the active tailgate crowd and the 5,500-seat amphitheater stage is a one-of-a-kind space that hosts nearly 40 concerts a year.
“The Jaguars pride ourselves on a first-class fan experience that begins with tailgating and doesn’t end until the final touchdown,” said Jaguars director of group and inside sales Russell Rendon. “We’ve created unique stadium environments that cater to every group, from 10 to 1,000.”
Miami Beach Convention Center Creates a Dynamic Sense of Place for Groups
Jeanne Bothwell, director of sales for Visit Jacksonville, said that new downtown additions such as Daily’s Place Amphitheater have expanded options for meeting planners to deliver an outstanding experience.
For baseball lovers, there are two Major League Baseball teams, the Miami Marlins and Tampa Bay Rays, but also several Florida Grapefruit League (spring training) teams for major league teams such as the Atlanta Braves, Baltimore Orioles, Boston Red Sox and New York Mets. Over 25 million fans from all over the world have attended Florida Spring Training Games since 2000.
“In The Palm Beaches, you get all the sights and sounds of Major League Baseball for a fraction of the price, making it ideal for groups and meetings that want the fun without the expense,” said Jorge Pesquera, president and CEO for Discover The Palm Beaches. “Our two world-class spring training facilities are perfect for groups to experience up-close and personal their favorite teams. The FITTEAM Ballpark of The Palm Beaches is home to the Houston Astros and Washington Nationals, and Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium is home to the St. Louis Cardinals and the Miami Marlins. In addition, the stadiums themselves are perfect for creative, out-of-the-box teambuilding activities.”
Axalta Spa Cabanas
National Hockey League Teams
Florida is home to two National Hockey League teams: the Florida Panthers, which play in Sunrise at the BB&T Center near Miami; and the Tampa Bay Lightning, that play at the Amalie Arena. And while most people don’t think of ice hockey when they think of Florida, the sport is in fact wildly popular in the state.
“Tampa Bay may be in the South, but we are also a major hockey town,” said Santiago C. Corrada, president and CEO of Visit Tampa Bay. “Lightning games serve as an important component in our pitches to meeting planners by showing the depth of experiences available to groups in the destination. The fact that Amalie Arena is part of the convention district makes Tampa Bay even more attractive as a meeting location.”
In Pasco County, the Florida Hospital Center Ice in Wesley Chapel is the largest ice rink sports complex in the Southeast United States. The state-of-the-art, 150,000-square-foot, four-rink ice complex offers three NHL rinks and one Olympic rink. The NHL rinks can convert to a dry floor to accommodate basketball, soccer, lacrosse, volleyball and functions such as corporate meetings and events.
Florida's Basketball Venues
Florida’s world-renowned NBA teams garner a large following throughout the country. Whether you’re in Orlando or Miami, the state’s two teams get the crowd going wild during.
At the Amway Center, where the Orlando Magic play, rooms and suites are available for rental on a per-event basis for special events.
The BankUnited Vault Room, for example, is surrounded by windows and downtown Orlando views and comes with in-bowl leather seating, tickets to the game and access to the North Club Bar.
Another option is the Walt Disney World Terrace, a private bar with tickets to the game and high-top tables to view the action.
Want to see the Miami Heat in style? The American Airlines Arena offers a variety of unique event spaces.
VIP ticket packages feature an array of amenities for select games, including great seats, pre-show parties in one of the arena’s premier lounges, including catering, and even a behind-the-scenes tour.
Other Great Florida Sports Venues
One of Tallahassee’s largest event spaces, the Champions Club, offers 100,000 square feet of mixed-use space—70,000 square feet of indoor/air-conditioned space and 30,000 square feet of covered rooftop terraces with cabanas—both offering panoramic views of the Capitol, Florida State University and Bobby Bowden field.
Construction has already begun on a new, $37 million Panama City Beach Sports Complex that includes outdoor fields for soccer, lacrosse, rugby and football, in addition to five baseball/softball diamonds. The finished complex will also offer a vast indoors sports and recreation center. The facility is expected to open in August 2019.
In Central Florida’s Winter Haven, construction has begun on the Winter Haven Fieldhouse and Conference Center (set to open November 2019) that will have more than 60,000 square feet of meeting space. Also, there have been $15 million in renovations on the RP Funding Center, including Jenkins Arena, which received new locker rooms, arena lighting, a state-of-the-art sound system, new LED ribbon boards and scoreboards, and updates to the seating and concourses for ADA compliance.
The United States Tennis Association’s new state-of-the-art headquarters facility features more than 100 tennis courts in the Lake Nona area of Orlando.
The World Golf Hall of Fame in St. Augustine honors both male and female golfing legends, such as Arnold Palmer and Nancy Lopez.
At the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America in Daytona, guests have the opportunity to experience spectacular displays honoring all forms of motorsports, like stock cars, sports cars, motorcycles and powerboats. The 10,000-square-foot hall, adorned with sculpted images of 230 inductees of the Hall of fame, includes a long list of exclusive vehicles.
At Daytona’s NASCAR Racing Experience, visitors can take laps around the world-famous 2.5-mile Daytona International Speedway.
Lions Pride Orlando is a sports-themed restaurant where guests can watch Orlando City soccer games in luxury. The entire venue is available for a buyout (350 seated/500 total). The Second Level lounge and dining area (100 seated) is perfect for a VIP experience and a variety of private events, big and small.
Boombah Sports Complex, a 102-acre sports complex, opened in Seminole County in May 2016.
Hattrick’s sports bar in Tampa is an ideal location to watch Tampa Bay Lightning hockey games.
Top Golf, a big player in the meetings industry with locations in Tampa, Orlando, Miami and Jacksonville, offers an urban-style driving range that includes restaurants and other gathering places.
At the Mission Inn Resort & Club in Howey-In-the-Hills, the El Campeon 18-hole championship course was built in 1917 and is one of the South’s oldest golf courses with spectacular rolling fairways. The resort’s Las Colinas course was named one of the 10 Top Golf Courses by GolfAdvisor in 2017. Sports opportunities include teambuilding events at its dedicated facility.
More in Florida: Central East Florida Is a Hotbed for Group Adventures