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Return of MLB spring training has Arizona, Florida hoping for billion-dollar economic bounce back

MLB spring training generated a combined $1.3 billion in economic activity for Arizona and Florida in 2018

Read original post on FOX BUSINESS NEWS

Major League Baseball’s spring training begins Friday, and fans will get to be in the stands for a full slate of games for the first time since 2019. The pent-up demand created by pandemic-era restrictions and last season’s labor lockout has Arizona and Florida eyeing a billion-dollar economic bounce back as fans flock back to ballparks in the warm-weather states.

Fans from around the country travel to those states to watch their favorite teams in a more intimate environment than the regular season typically offers, and spring training generates economic activity for the two states, estimated at about $1.3 billion in 2018.

The circumstances of the last three seasons prevented fans from being able to fully partake in spring training, which, in turn, hurt the economies of communities that host spring training.

Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher Alek Manoah, right, poses for a selfie with fans during spring training in Dunedin, Fla., Sunday, Feb. 19, 2023. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP / AP Newsroom)

In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic prompted the cancellation of spring training about three weeks in. As the pandemic dragged into 2021, MLB teams in both states limited crowd sizes and set social distancing restrictions. Last year, spring training was delayed and then shortened, disrupting fans’ travel schedules amid a labor dispute between MLB owners and the MLB Players Association over their contract.

With pandemic restrictions lifted and labor disputes resolved, MLB fans will be able to enjoy a full spring training experience. And communities in Arizona and Florida hope to enjoy the economic benefits of a return to normalcy.

“In 2023, we are looking forward to a ‘normal’ season, the first in four years,” Cactus League Executive Director Bridget Binsbacher told FOX Business. “Everywhere I go, I sense excitement among valley residents about the upcoming season. Combine that with an upswing in tourism, and I’m optimistic we will see higher attendance.”

Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Todd Sanders echoed that sentiment, telling FOX Business that, on the heels of the Super Bowl and WM Phoenix Open, he believes it will be a “strong year” for spring training attendance that could surpass the 1.7 million visitors the area hosts in typical years.