The Business of Sports Tourism

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Sports tourism in Lee County will be the topic of the next business meeting of the Sanibel & Captiva Islands Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday, Oct. 12, at Marriott Sanibel Harbour Resort and Spa in Fort Myers.

The meeting begins at 11:30AM with Jeff Mielke, executive director of Lee County Sports Development, leading off. Florida SouthWestern State College basketball coaches Dr. Jerald Ellis and Eric Murphy will address managing teams through challenging times.

Their discussion will lead to the chamber’s formal announcement of Islands Night, the Basketball Edition, which will take place Friday, Nov. 18, during an FSW men’s basketball home game against Spartanburg Methodist.

“We hope to fill the arena for this first-ever event, which spins off our popular spring Islands Night baseball games of 30 years,” said John Lai, chamber president and chief executive officer. “Encouraged by Sanibel Captiva Community Bank, we are planning the free night as a way of bringing our members and the Sanibel-Captiva community together this fall – indoors, out of seasonal weather whims – to rally and socialize before season kicks in. Thanks so much to the bank for helping to make this happen and stepping up as title sponsors.”

Free tickets will be available at the luncheon and are already being distributed, same as original Islands Night tickets, through island businesses.

Mielke has led the county’s sports development program since 2003. Prior to that, he held the position of vice president of operations for the Central Florida Sports Commission in Orlando.

Murphy is head coach of the FSW Buccaneers men’s basketball team, and Ellis leads the girls team. In 2022, Murphy entered his fifth season as head coach and seventh overall with the Bucs. Last year, he led a 24-6 season and in 2019-2020 accomplished the team’s third consecutive undefeated Suncoast Conference Championship.

Ellis enters his third season as girls’ basketball head coach and his seventh season overall. During his two seasons at the helm, his team has won its fourth and fifth straight conference championships, earning Ellis the title Southern Conference Coach of the Year in both seasons.

The chamber business lunch is a monthly networking opportunity held at various member locations. The chamber strives to provide speakers to discuss relevant business topics for the membership. Sanibel-Captiva chamber members receive meeting invitations by email. Cost for luncheon attendance is $30 for chamber members only. Advanced registration is required to attend; walk-ins are not accepted. Register by 5 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 7, at sanibel-captiva.org or by calling 239-472-8255. Payment is due at time of registration.