The Best Is Yet to Come
Renewing Cocoa Expo Sports Center
by Eric Wright
A rebirth is taking place on the Space Coast, which will bring thousands of visitors every year, generate millions of dollars in tourist revenue and directly provide over 500 full and part-time jobs when fully operational! Just west of I-95 on SR520, the Cocoa Expo is getting a $40 million makeover, which will turn the facility into a national destination for youth baseball, basketball and volleyball tournaments. If ESPN’s Wide World of Sports is the Disney World of sports complexes, then Cocoa Expo Sports Center will soon be the Universal Studios equivalent.
The complex originally opened as the spring training home of the Houston Colt 45’s, who later became the Houston Astros. After the Astros moved to Kissimmee in 1984, the park turned its attention to amateur sports and hosted hundreds of NCAA, high school and youth tournaments. But after almost 20 years without significant improvements, the complex began to lose its luster and its revenue. It was then that Central Florida developer Jeff Unnerstall, president/owner of Upland Development, saw the opportunity and stepped in to breathe a fresh vision into the historic complex.
Youth Sports Tourism
The magic words, “Youth Sports Tourism,” are what make a complex like Cocoa Expo possible. According to Dr. Steve Carney, a professor of sport management at Drexel University in Philadelphia, “There are an estimated 41 million American kids playing competitive youth sports and that number has risen significantly over the last 10 to 20 years.”
All of these competitive sports have seasons, patterned after the professional leagues, which last several months. But if your son or daughter loves a sport, allowing them to play that game competitively, just during the recognized season, is like only letting your daughter practice gymnastics from April to July or allowing your son to surf for a three-month season. Filling this gap is the tournament and sport camp phenomena.
Camp Isn’t Just for Camping
In previous generations camps usually involved urban kids having a wilderness experience. Now camps have evolved into something more specialized, like Space Camp at KSC or band camps. However, the fastest growing segment is those targeting the sports market.
For baseball, which will be Cocoa Expo’s marquee sport, their camps are led by iconic NCAA coach Jay Bergman, who coached at both the University of Florida and University of Central Florida. The Jay Bergman Summer Baseball Camps are the #1 residential baseball camps in the world.
The Expo Elite Showcase Camps give high school athletes the opportunity to interact with and learn from current college baseball coaches. For the high school athlete looking to move to the next level, these camps are a perfect fit.
Another departure from the traditional camp experience is that sports camps and tournaments often become a family affair. With the great location they have in Cocoa – minutes from cruise ships at Port Canaveral, hotels that line the beaches and famous theme parks – they expect to be a year-round destination for the whole family.
A Facility Second to None
The Cocoa Expo Sports Center not only will have one of the best locations in the country, but their facilities will include a completely renovated professional baseball stadium (if you are old enough to have seen the Astros or Marlins play there, you won’t recognize the place). In addition, there will be 12 other baseball fields, plus indoor and outdoor training facilities. Basketball teams will compete in a 100,000 square foot gymnasium with 11 NFHS regulation hardwood courts and, for volleyball teams, they’ll have 14 hardwood volleyball courts.
During their “down time,” players will be able to cool off at the proposed Cocoa Expo Water Park. The sports complex was designed with lodging, dining and entertainment in mind. All of the above amenities are currently under construction, with an anticipated completion date of Spring 2013.
The Dollars Make Sense
Cooperstown Dream Park is a similar sports complex targeting Little Leaguers, located near the MLB Hall of Fame. They host 104 teams in weekly tournaments and over 1,350 teams per season. Though open only 13 weeks per year, Dream Park grosses nearly $1 million per week. Cocoa Expo Sports Center will be open year-around and will host baseball, basketball and volleyball for athletes ranging from elementary age through college.
With nearly 200 teams visiting the complex each month, with an average of 12 kids per team, the economic impact the Center will have, not only in hosting the athletes, but their families who will patronize restaurants and stay in area hotels is staggering. Cocoa Expo Sports Center is destined to put the Space Coast on the map of traveling baseball teams and will certainly prove to be an incredible boost to the Brevard economy!
500 Friday Road • Cocoa, FL • 32926
Phone: (321) 639-EXPO (3976)
- Cocoa Expo Stadium
- 7 NCAA Regulation Baseball Fields
- 6 Youth Baseball/Softball Fields
- 11 Full-Sized Basketball Courts
- 14 Competition Volleyball Courts
- Indoor Training Facility
- Weight Room
- 84-Room All-Star Athlete Resort
- Cocoa Expo Water Park