Baseball Lockout Leaves Florida Training Hubs Scrambling 

The ongoing labor dispute between Major League Baseball (MLB) and the MLB Players Association is beginning to hit close to home. Florida serves as one of two major hubs (the other being Arizona) for MLB’s Spring Training season, which brings not only the ballplayers themselves, but legions of diehard fans. However, due to an expired collective bargaining agreement between team ownership and the Players Association, the players are on owner-imposed “lockout” until a new deal is brokered. In the meantime, the Spring Training season has been suspended, with no resolution in sight.

This has substantial implications for local economies in Florida that provide Spring Training accommodations for teams and their traveling entourage. While the COVID-19 pandemic caused some disruption in a booming Spring Training tourism market, prior tourism returns were prolific—2019 saw an estimated 1.5 million fans convene across the 15 spring training homes in Florida. On an annual basis this equates to a collective $687 million dollar impact for these local economies. 


Obscuring the issue even further is the fact that many local communities have expended public dollars to make these accommodations for teams. Many of the Spring Training ballparks were developed as public-private partnerships with public funds doing much of the legwork. State of the art training facilities, like the Braves’ CoolToday Park in North Port, come with a hefty price tag approaching $140 million. While this is no doubt an impressive figure, the expectation is that these parks will pay for themselves several times over in the form of economic stimulus for the local economy. With the 2022 season in jeopardy, however, these communities could be left holding the bag. For the sake of Florida’s unique Spring Training destinations, here’s hoping the two sides reach an agreement soon.