What the Heck Is a 'Sports and Active Lifestyle Cluster'? | Voice of San Diego


What the Heck Is a 'Sports and Active Lifestyle Cluster'?

Business and workforce groups released a study last week pegging the size and effect of the region’s “Sports and Active Lifestyle Cluster.” Here’s what that means.

Business and workforce groups released a study last week pegging the size and effect of one of the region’s leading industries.

Studies like this, and events touting those studies, happen pretty regularly in town.

But unlike events examining the beer economy or the military, the industry under the microscope this time is relatively obscure.

The “Sports and Active Lifestyle Cluster,” as it’s called in the study, includes more than 1,200 businesses. It employs more than 23,000 people. It provides a $1.35 billion impact to the region. It’s added 700 jobs in just the last two years.

Impressive stuff. So what the heck is it?

The report cobbled together all kinds of stuff that takes place here that in some way involves physical or outdoor activities.

That’s everything from golf courses and marinas to yoga studios, CrossFit gyms, apparel companies, motocross manufacturers, (Disclosure: That includes my wife, who works in human resources for one such company) sporting goods stores, marathon and other race promoters and any type of training or coaching.

What it doesn’t include: professional teams, health care companies geared toward things like sports rehab, tourism-focused companies (like La Jolla kayak tours) or public-sector park and recreation-based jobs.

Here’s a grid showing all the things the researchers included in their report.


So, that covers a lot of companies that don’t have all that much to do with one another directly. Callaway Golf Company, headquartered in Carlsbad, makes high-end gear for professional and amateur golfers; VAVi Sport & Social Club organizes things like kickball leagues for 20-somethings. They don’t have all that much in common.

Or, as the report puts it, the cluster “includes a broad range of businesses that provide a diverse mix of products and services.”

Here’s how the businesses break down by traditional industry classifications.


San Diego’s sector is among the biggest in the country, according to the report. And the other cities and regions listed along with it sort of make sense: These sorts of companies seem to cluster, naturally enough, in crunchy areas with good weather and lots of opportunity for outdoor activities. Providence, R.I., makes the list largely on the basis of a golf equipment maker Acushnet.


Metro Areas with Sports and Recreation Industries

The report says San Diego’s cluster is worth $1.3 billion in direct economic activity, and $2.2 billion in total impact, once you consider all the unrelated things, like workers in the industry spending their income in the rest of the regional economy, that result from the cluster.


That’s a big effect. The study put it in context by saying it’s equal to the effect of hosting four Super Bowls.

Another way to think of it: The industry’s direct impact is more than four times the size of the craft beer industry‘s, which seems to generate a lot more attention.

The study even lists a few ongoing tips for fostering the whole thing.

One of those is to keep talking about how great the region’s weather is. Easy enough. There might be a lot of things San Diego doesn’t do well, but bragging about the sun isn’t one of them.

The study also says regional leaders should continue to strengthen ties with Mexico, where manufacturing partnerships would be advantageous.

But the biggest issue raised by members of the cluster was shipping, and other logistics-related costs. The report says continued investment in the ports and airport are critical to the industry’s ongoing success.

What do you think?