OUR POSITION: We can’t underestimate the importance of Punta Gorda Airport and Allegiant Airlines, nor annual events like the Snowbird Classic baseball tournament, to Charlotte County’s economy.

Call it a double shot of love.

That’s the twin announcements last week of millions of dollars in economic impact showered on Charlotte County by Allegiant Airlines, the Punta Gorda Airport and the Snowbird Classic college baseball tournament. Although not directly linked, the annual spring sports event and Punta Gorda Airport are nothing short of gold mines for county coffers.

While it’s easy to question exactly how anyone can come up with exact numbers on the “economic impact” of any event, it’s logical to embrace the fact both the airport and the baseball tournament do make a significant contribution to our local businesses.

The baseball tournament, which featured 44 college teams from across the nation, brings hundreds of players and fans to the area each spring. They eat in our restaurants and stay in our hotels. It all adds up to lots of money spent.

The Punta Gorda/Englewood Beach Visitor and Convention Bureau released a report Friday that estimated the tournament, which runs from Feb. 15 to March 22 at various diamonds in Charlotte County, brought 10,570 people to Charlotte County. And, those visitors spent about $8.7 million here.

According to the visitors bureau, if you factor in the direct spending with the increased business spending to accommodate the influx of fans and players, the total estimated economic impact is about $13.3 million.

“The Snowbird Baseball Classic has grown to be the largest spring baseball gathering of Division I schools in the country and is attracting top Division II teams too,” Steve Partington, tournament director, said in a press release. “The tournament’s success depends on the strong relationships with local partners which include the communities of Charlotte and Sarasota counties and the Florida Sports Foundation. With their support, the tournament continues to introduce players, coaches, parents and spectators who support the local economy by spending money in local restaurants, shops, attractions and hotels.”

Total attendance at games was 13,120, which includes spectators, coaches, players and staff. Out-of-towners stayed an average of 7.3 nights and occupied more than 23,000 room nights in Charlotte County accommodations.

Meanwhile, a Florida Department of Transportation report says Punta Gorda Airport’s total economic impact is about $1.2 billion. Wow!

The local airport had another record-breaking month for passenger traffic in March with a total of 221,326 Allegiant passengers, according to a press release. That is a 14.7 percent increase from March 2018, which was also a record-breaking month at the time.

Overall, more than 1.5 million passengers arrived and departed the airport in 2018, compared with one of the early years of Allegiant’s landing. In 2010 the airport saw 182,423 passengers and the airport’s economic impact was estimated at about $141.3 million.

And, it’s not all about Allegiant — although the commercial airline is the giant economic driver. According to the press release, the airport has continued to see growth in aviation and non-aviation business. There were also general aviation, air taxi and military expenditures. And, nearly all of the airport’s commercial hangars are leased and there is a waiting list for T-hangar rentals.

Charlotte County — with an airport bursting at the seams and events like the Snowbird Classic — is in a sweet position to utilize those successes as leverage for even more economic growth.

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