Florida Sports Foundation Rises to the Occasion

Newly promoted VP of Sports Development Liese Abili discusses the Florida Sports Foundation's role in assisting the Sunshine State's recovery.

Florida Sports Foundation Rises to the Occasion

As a result of myriad circumstances, the past year and a half proved be a window of opportunity for Florida’s sports tourism industry. The Florida Sports Foundation saw the chance to help its partnering organizations that were ready and able to host tournaments and events earlier than other parts of the country. The short-term effect was some needed sunshine on an extended rainy day; the long-term impact is likely to mean even more new business in Florida.

Connect Sports talked to Abili about the foundation’s work assisting Florida-based DMOs during the industry’s most challenging time to date, and why he thinks Florida will come out even stronger due to new initiatives sparked by the pandemic.


One of the Florida Sports Foundation’s most powerful tools is its grant program dedicated to attracting out-of-state events. When it became apparent that the drive marker would pave the way for the immediate future, the grant was temporarily shifted toward the goal of assisting local and regional tournaments. “We wanted to stand up and support our partners more in these challenging times,” explains Abili. While the grant has since gone back to its original use, the change paid off at a pivotal moment.


With FAM trips and other avenues to make in-person sales pitches halted, the foundation brought Florida to the sports tourism community. It hosted monthly chats with rights holders to discuss the needs of event organizers. In addition, a newsletter was launched to spread news about Florida’s successes and ability to host future events. Both are adaptations sure to be long-term solutions, predicts Abili.

Website Enhancements

The foundation has poured resources into creating a directory of Florida venues and host destinations for sports planners. It’s another way to help shape the foundation as a key connector of rights holders and the people behind the facilities.


When Florida opened for events far earlier than other parts of the country, the Sunshine State had what Abili calls “a window of opportunity.” Many events scheduled elsewhere relocated from longtime homes. While some events will return to their traditional homes, others may make the move to Florida permanent. “Some of those events will stay,” says Abili. He also doesn’t think there will be any so-called “Florida fatigue” from attendees who relied on the state during the pandemic. “It’s very positive” hosting so many events, he says.

Return to Normal

Florida’s weather and attractions have always made it popular among international tourists and attendees. Abili says he’s assisting on a partnership with Monaco and Nitro Circus Rallycross took place North Florida in November.

Growth Opportunities

Abili is honored and humbled by his promotion but credits Florida Sports Foundation President and CEO Angela Adams Suggs for recognizing multiple individuals for recent accomplishments. “My successes are from her letting me do what I do best,” he says. “It’s a unit!”