At Nemours Children's Hospital in the Lake Nona neighborhood of Orlando, hundreds of patients and families come from all across the country for specialized care.

  • Lake Nona growing sports, medical tourism
  • USTA National Campus opens in January
  • Florida sees 300,000 to 400,000 medical tourists a year

“For example, our pediatric interventional radiology and it’s a specialty that there’s only roughly 100 doctors in the entire country that work in that specialty," said Vonda Sexton, Managing Director of Strategy and Business Development in Florida for Nemours. "We have three of them right here in Lake Nona at our facility and so families seek out this type of care and patients come from all over."

“Our doctors are not only specialists but they’re sub-specialists in areas," Sexton explained.

Officials with the East Orlando Chamber of Commerce sponsored a panel discussion Wednesday afternoon, focused on Sports & Medical Tourism as a billion dollar growth industry in Southeast Orlando.

One of those tourism anchors is the United States Tennis Association National Campus in Lake Nona, which is set to open on January 2, 2017.

The facility will house 100 tennis courts, and in 2017 alone, is scheduled to host 35,000 players and 100,000 spectators. Many of them will visit Orlando from outside of the Central Florida region.

"We quickly realized that Orlando really was the best home for the Home of American Tennis, with all the world-class attractions, the facilities, the amenities," shared Dan Malasky, the general counsel and managing director of business affairs for the USTA National Campus.

Lake Nona wants to be known for more than hospitals and homes.  

“When you find somebody with a need, that’s when you can create true partnership and that’s really what we’re after," said Andrew Odenbach, who serves as Vice President of Sports Ventures for Tavistock Development Corporation, the group behind Lake Nona.

The area's up and coming Sports Innovation and Performance District will be anchored by USTA and the Orlando City Soccer Training Center but hopefully elevated by other Olympic sports.

"When we look at sports that we don't currently have today, emerging sports things like Beach Volleyball, things like Rugby. These are things that Tavistock is pursuing and ultimately, if we're successful in bringing them here to Lake Nona, we know NCAA competitions will become a prevalent part of that strategic decision making," Odenbach said.

Developers are aiming for connectivity, molding Sports & Medical Tourism into Lake Nona's DNA.

"Once you have multiple sports and disciplines in one location, you're going to bring everything else. You're going to bring sports medicine, you're going to bring sports science, you're going to bring nutrition and then the entire community becomes a potential benefit of those facilities too," Odenbach said.

According the Florida Chamber of Commerce, estimates of medical tourism suggest that this is a growing $100 billion global market.

Meanwhile, the chamber added that a recent study found Florida generally sees between 300,000 to 400,000 medical tourists a year, generating almost $6 billion in medical services activity in Florida.