South Korean professional baseball team wants to hold spring training in Brevard County

Kia Tigers submitted request to Tourist Development Council

In what could be a boon to Brevard County, a South Korean professional baseball team is looking into coming to the Space Coast for spring training in 2023, potentially at the USSSA Space Coast Complex in Viera, according to News 6 partner Florida Today.

BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. – In what could be a boon to Brevard County, a South Korean professional baseball team is looking into coming to the Space Coast for spring training in 2023, potentially at the USSSA Space Coast Complex in Viera, according to News 6 partner Florida Today.

A Fort Lauderdale-based representative of the Kia Tigers submitted a request to the Brevard County Tourist Development Council for a $20,000 county sports grant to help cover some of the marketing, public relations, promotions and other costs of the Tigers playing here.

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Under the proposal, the Tigers — a member of the 10-team KBO League, South Korea’s top-level baseball league — would be in Brevard from Feb. 1 to March 10 for spring training. The Tigers are based in Gwangju, in southwest South Korea.

The Tigers’ minor-league team also would come here, potentially playing at the Launch Pad Sports Complex, which formerly was known as the Cocoa Expo.

In addition to training here, the plan calls for the teams to play exhibition games against U.S. college and minor-league teams.

Both the Space Coast Complex — when it was known as Space Coast Stadium — and the Cocoa Expo in the past have been home to U.S. major-league baseball spring training.

The Tourist Development Council’s Sports Committee on Tuesday considered the Kia Tigers’ grant request, but took no action. Committee members said they want more details, including assurance that the baseball team has firm contracts to use the stadiums and a firm schedule of exhibition games.

When it comes to the grant applications, “you shouldn’t be scoring on ‘if’s’ " said Sports Committee member Paul O’Leary, a sports marketing and media specialist who is vice president operations for the media company WhereBy.Us.

Committee members agreed to reconsider the request at their Oct. 13 meeting.

Money for the grant would come from Brevard County’s 5% tourist development tax on hotel rooms and other short-term rentals.

The grant application indicated that the Tigers expect to generate 3,575 nights of hotel room rentals during their stay on the Space Coast. Office of Tourism officials estimate a $5.90 million economic impact for the area if the Tigers came here for spring training.

The team previously has held spring training in Fort Myers and Bradenton.

The Tigers are considered the most successful team in Korean baseball history, having won the Korean Series championship 11 times.

Grants for new events

The Sports Committee on Tuesday unanimously approved grants for three events new to the Space Coast. These grants must be approved by the Tourist Development Council and the Brevard County Commission.

  • The Space Force T-Minus 10-Miler running event at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, with a health and fitness expo, was approved for an $18,660 grant for its Dec. 9-10 event dates. The event would generate an estimated 2,000 room nights and a $2.48 million economic impact.
  • The Prep Baseball Report Spring Training Showcase for Canadian youth baseball teams and individual players ages 14 and up was approved for a $14,660 grant for its March 11-19, 2023, event dates. The event would generate an estimated 1,800 room nights and a $7.82 million economic impact. The Launch Pad Sports Complex is a potential venue for the event.
  • American Junior Golf Association Moon Golf Junior All-Star at Duran Golf Club in Viera was approved for a $5,910 grant for its April 20-23, 2023, event dates. The event is a 54-hole junior golf championship for boys and girls ages 12 to 15. The event would generate an estimated 350 room nights and a $608,755 economic impact.

Grant amounts were based on a formula that took into account room night projections and the scores of the Sports Committee members rating the applications. The maximum grant amount is $20,000.

Two other new events failed to get the minimum average score of 70 out of 100 in the committee’s scoring, so they did not qualify for a grant. They were:

  • The Sunshine State Games International Beach Games, presented by the Florida Sports Foundation, at Pelican Beach Park in Satellite Beach, Sept. 24-26, with a projected room night total of 200 and a projected economic impact of $702,702. The event includes surfing, stand-up paddleboarding, open-water swimming, beach volleyball, teqball and yoga.
  • The National Association of Basketball Coaches Basketball Clinic at Florida Institute of Technology, Oct. 14-16, with a projected room night total of 250 and a projected economic impact of $1.36 million.

Sports Committee member Ruby Daniel, general manager of Cape Crossing Resort & Marina on Merritt Island, emphasized that “just because they didn’t get money from us doesn’t mean the event doesn’t happen. We’re not going to stop them from having the event.”

Grants for returning events

Four sports events that are returning to the Space Coast were recommended for grants in unanimous Sports Committee votes, encompassing events in the second half of the 2022-23 budget year, from April 1 to Sept. 30, 2023.

  • Space Coast Clash Soccer Tournament at Wickham Park in Melbourne and Viera Regional Park, with divisions for 8- to 15-year-old boys and girls; April 1-3, 2023; $15,000 grant; 800 projected room nights; $2.49 million estimated economic impact.
  • Cocoa Beach Triathlon and Duathlon, and the Shuttleversary 5K; April 16, 2023; $11,500 grant; 800 projected room nights; $264,494 estimated economic impact. The running potion of the event will be at Cocoa Beach Golf Course, the bicycling portion will be along State Road A1A and the swimming portion will be in the Banana River.
  • Eastern Surfing Association 2023 Southeast Regional Surfing Championship at Paradise Beach Park in Melbourne Beach; April 21-23, 2023; $17,760 grant; 1,000 projected room nights; $1.43 million estimated economic impact.
  • National Kidney Foundation Rick Salick Surf Fest at the Westgate Cocoa Beach Resort; Sept. 2-4, 2023; $12,000 grant; 700 projected room nights; $1.20 million estimated economic impact.

The county previously approved nine sports grants for the events in the first half of the 2022-23 budget year, running from Oct. 1, 2022, through March 31, 2023. Those grants totaled $94,252.

Seeking additional events

Terry Parks, tourism sports coordinator for the Space Coast Office of Tourism, said he and other Office of Tourism staff members are actively pursuing other sports events for Brevard County.

For example, Parks told Sports Committee members he is working with Eastern Florida State College to bring the 2024 junior college men’s and women’s basketball tournaments to EFSC.

Other events Parks and Office of Tourism Executive Director Peter Cranis said they are seeking include amateur golf tournaments, lacrosse tournaments, dance and cheer competitions, beach soccer and beach volleyball, as well as esports competitions and drone racing.

Rule changes may be coming

Sports Committee members plan to hold a workshop to consider changes to the grant guidelines.

“We’ve got to clean up the language a little bit” in the grant applications, said committee member Jaime Teijeiro, general manager of the Best Western Cocoa Beach Hotel & Suites and the Days Inn Cocoa Beach-Port Canaveral.

The changes committee members mentioned could include such things as:

  • Raising the minimum number of room night rentals required to qualify for a grant.
  • Beefing up the required budget information required of applicants.
  • Having a better system of tracking room nights rented.
  • Reducing maximum grant amounts applicants are eligible for if they are longtime events that have received a number of grants over the years, in order to have more money available for grants to new events.

Currently, $50,000 is set aside in the Space Coast Office of Tourism budget for new events, and the three grants the Sports Committee approved Tuesday used $39,230 that amount.

Daniel said the county “is giving money away for events we love,” and, in some cases, the events are so established that the sports grants are not crucial for the events’ continued success.

Teijeiro said newer events can be riskier for the organizers, but may be worth an investment of a county sports grant because of the event’s potential.

Sports Committee member Fred Poppe, Palm Bay’s director of parks and recreation, said it also might be a good idea to encourage grant applicants to make in-person or video presentations to the committee, to supplement their written applications for grants.

“It you can’t sell it to us here, how successful is the event going to be?” Poppe said.