Rebel Spring Games leaving Osceola for Polk Co.



OSCEOLA COUNTY, Fla. - A big money-maker is leaving Osceola County.

For 14 years, the Rebel Spring Games softball tournament has pumped about $100 million into Osceola's struggling economy. It's moving to Polk County.

Local businesses will take a huge hit and owners said the county is to blame for raising field rental fees by 400 percent.

Loyal guests for Manager Mike Foncannon of the Golden Link motel on U.S. 192 won't be coming back.

"It's almost like losing a relative," Foncannon said.

Every year, more than 50 percent of Foncannon's 85 rooms were booked for almost a month by people attending the tournament.

The economic impact at the Golden Link motel alone is between $25,000 and $30,000.

The league's owner said Osceola just increased field rental fees from $15 per game to $60.

Now that money and hundreds of tournament teams are moving on.

"I'm certainly disappointed, because we put a lot of effort into building business relationships, not only with the government of the county and the city but also with all the businesses in the area," league owner Kevin Billiau said over the phone Tuesday.

In an email, a county spokesperson said that during negotiations with the Rebel Games, another league, United States Specialty Sports Association, agreed to the higher fees.

He said USSSA generated about $24 million with 31 events in 2011. But Foncannon said what may be good business for the county is shutting locals out.

"The businesses are struggling and we need the government to get behind us and support and find ways to get people in the county, not chase them away," Foncannon said.