Famous athletes from many different sports make their homes in central and southern Florida. Golf legend Tiger Woods, Miami Heat forward LeBron James, Miami Dolphins wide receiver Mike Wallace and Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Vincent Jackson are a few athletes that call the “Sunshine State” home. From Orlando to Miami Beach and Jupiter, Floridians find themselves living next door to the country’s greatest sports heroes. Just as sportsbooks bonuses entice sports fans to ante up, Florida’s many bonuses draw professional athletes to bet on life near the state’s beaches and byways.
How the Pros’ Love Affair With Florida Began
Golf legend Arnold Palmer used to be followed around the course by groupies who called themselves “Arnie’s Army.” In 1976, instead of leading his fans toward the 18th hole, Palmer led a tide of athletes toward Florida. Arnie settled in Orlando after he and a group of investors leased Bay Hill with an option to buy it. Palmer fell in love with Orlando back in 1965, when he visited the state as part of Wake Forest’s golf team. By the mid-1990s, baseball legend Ken Griffey, Jr., had settled in Windermere. Griffey counted both Shaquille O’Neal and Miami Dolphins tight end Eric Green among his neighbors. Former Notre Dame head coach Lou Holtz built a house near Lake Nona.
According to Palmer, athletes saw him move to central Florida and thought he “must have had some sort of scoop.” The pro athlete invasion didn’t stop in Orlando. Alex Rodriguez, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh moved to Miami Beach. LeBron James moved to Coconut Grove, while Michael Jordan, Bill Parcells and Tiger Woods settled in Jupiter.
Florida’s Tax Advantages
Pro athletes pay taxes in nearly every city their teams play in. In fact, pro athletes often pay what accountants call “the jock tax” in 10 to 30 jurisdictions every year. In addition to the jock tax, players pay income taxes on their salaries in the cities where their teams are based in. To make things even more complicated, they pay taxes on income from dividends, interest, endorsements and personal appearances in the cities they live in.
Athletes who live in Florida pay no income tax on endorsements and personal appearances. In fact, when LeBron James chose to play for the Miami Heat in 2010, taxes may have factored into his decision. If he’d chosen the New York Knicks, then he would have lost 10 percent of his salary to taxes. By choosing Florida, LeBron got to keep all that he earned from his contract.
Attractive Real Estate Prices
Another draw for pro athletes is Florida’s affordable real estate market. After the 2008 recession, Tampa and Orlando both made Bloomberg Businessweek’s list of the Top 10 Cheapest U.S. Housing Markets. A mansion that would cost millions in California, for example, costs a few hundred thousand dollars in Florida. Cities that offer attractive real estate deals also absorb athlete income when the pros pay for furniture, vehicles, landscaping, housekeeping, entertainment and utilities.
For many pro athletes, Florida is a good place to raise a family. Pros who live in Orlando live near Disney, Cape Canaveral, Pleasure Island and other kid-friendly attractions. In South Florida, families can enjoy year-round access to the beach. In many cases, towns like Orlando have just enough nightlife — but not too much — to make the area both fun and family-oriented.
Additionally, many pro athletes enjoy playing golf, and Florida has some of the country’s best courses. Many baseball players whose teams conduct spring training in Florida often book their tee times around their practice schedules. An athlete living in Jupiter, for example, has year-round access to The Bear’s Club and The Dye Preserve.
Last, but Not Least: Great Weather
Retired baseball pitcher Frank Viola, a longtime resident of Sweetwater, doesn’t dig out a snowblower in the winter. Instead, he digs out his golf clubs and heads to one of central Florida’s many golf courses. “Two or three cold snaps and that’s your winter,” he told The Orlando Sentinel. “Who wants to clean up your driveway and garage all the time?”
About the Author: Greg Perry is a freelance sports writer and avid sports bettor who lives in southern Florida.