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Fresno: California's Sports Event MVP

30 Apr, 2009

By: Andrea Johnson

With more than 300 sunny 70 to 90 degree days each year, Fresno has one of the nation's best natural environments for sporting events. That comes second, however, to an impressive business and cultural climate that makes thismid-sized city the optimal destination for sporting events.

Fresno, located between San Francisco and Los Angeles,hosts virtually hundreds of local, state, national and even international sporting events every year, including the U.S. Masters Swimming Nationals, the All-American BMX Nationals, the Junior World Roller Figure Skating Championships, Amateur Softball Association Western Nationals, Two Cities & Half Marathon, and the Fresno Force Classic, the largest non-national softball tournament in the U.S. The list grows constantly because of the unparalleled passion and spirit of cooperation demonstrated between Fresno's city and county government, the Fresno City & County Convention & Visitors Bureau (FCVB), Sports Council, SMG, parks and recreation department, and local businesses.

Perhaps most valuable is a population that demonstrates its enthusiasm through attending and volunteering for events, and even opening their homes to guests. In every way, Fresno embraces sports and the people who participate in them.

Just one phone call to FCVB is all you need to get the ball rolling toward a successful event. Their team is in constant contact with event planners to ensure every aspect of their events run smoothly. FCVB takes special pride in:

  • Providing accommodations within every budget for thousands. Fresno boasts morethan 8,000 hotel rooms and the FCVB team makes it easy for participants to find just the right one. The FCVB will create a website, specific to your event, where guests can easily view and book roomsat any time. And if they're not computer savvy, no problem. They can call the office for personal assistance.

  • Identifying and securing facilities. Fresno is an event-planner's heaven with dozens of parks featuring world-class skateboarding, mountain biking, swimming, baseball, basketball, track, figure skating, tennis facilities and much more. Stand-out venues include:

    • The Fresno Regional Sports Complex. Just a five minute drive from downtown, it offers nine soccer/football fields, six softball/baseball fields (four lighted) and can be set upfor a host of sports including rugby, ultimate Frisbee, lacrosse, archery, and volleyball. Amenities such as a state-of-the-art sound system, arboretum, restrooms, picnic shelters and lake make this apleasant place for everyone.

    • Fresno Convention andEntertainment Center. Located in downtown Fresno, the center has several multi-purpose facilities with more than 100,000 square feet of exhibit space to accommodate boxing, MMA/cage fighting, roller skating, volleyball, badminton and the like.

    • Chukchansi Park. This 12,500-seat downtown stadium features 34 luxury suites, indoor and outdoor full-service restaurants, a swimming pool, and fully programmable video and matrix board. It's ideal for baseball, softball, soccer, motocross and other events.

The FCVB team will work hand in hand with you to select preciselythe right indoor or outdoor facility, at the right price, in the right location.

  • Giving participants a warm welcome. When the World Roller Figure Skating Championships came to town, young people from across the globe converged on Fresno. Local organizations like the Central California Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Greater Area Chamber of Commerce, and the Chinese and Taiwanese Clubs eagerly made visitors feel at home. "Fresno has impressive ethnic diversity and that works to our advantage when we host international events," says Nichole Castillo, FCVB Sports Sales Manager.

  • Ensuring that you get the best value. The City of Fresno and SMG Management provide a discount toward renting facilities based upon how many guests' book hotel rooms.

"It's critical that every event is a success and that event planners have a very positive experience," says Castillo. "That's why so many events are held in our city again and again."

Like the Fresno Force Classic, a softball tournament which has brought at least 4,000 visitors to Fresno every summer for the past quarter century. Fresno's sunny climate and 20 lightedsoftball fields provide the perfect venue for what has grown into the largest non-national softball tournament, thanks to Fresno's drivability and affordability which is a powerful attendance and participation booster.

"This event brings young girls, ages 8 to 14 to town, and Nichole always goes out of her way to ensurethat they have suitable hotel rooms in safe neighborhoods," explains Mark Dodd, coordinator of the tournament. "Our participants are thrilled to be able to go online and book hotel rooms. They rave about how easy it is to attend our event. Everybody looks forward to coming."

While catering to traditional sportingevents like softball, Fresno is taking the lead in creating impressive action-sports venues, such as the Lions Den Skate Park, a new 13' tall, 42'wide vert ramp, the Vagabond Pool complex for BMX and skaters coming in 2010, the Woodward Mountain Bike Skills Progression Park and Woodward's BMX race track.

Lions Den offers 27,000 square feet of skateboarding terrain to serve all ages and expertise and features bowls, ramps and grind rails. The vert ramp was named "The Ark" after a backyard ramp that was the 1980s and ‘90s hot spot in Fresno. The Vagabond project was inspired by an abandoned hotel in downtown Fresno called the Vagabond that skaters adopted. When the hotel was renovated into condos, the city gave skateboarders a legitimate venue to hone their skills.

The Woodward Mountain Bike Skills Progression Park may be California's only urban mountain bike facility. While most mountain bike courses are located far from cities, the Woodward Park is just a short drive from downtown Fresnoand includes a downhill course of 40 continuous jumps, multiple cross-country trails and an elevated section where riders must balance themselves by riding over logs and boards. Features and jumps arerated for beginners, intermediate riders and experts.

The park was created by Tom Ritz, who built the BMX track for the 2008 Olympic Games, so it's no wonder the park is ranked among the top three in the nation and will host the 2009 All-American BMX National Championships featuring the world's most elite riders. The reigning champion, Randy Stumpfhauser, is a native of Fresno and is thrilled to have a bike park of this caliber in his hometown.

"I can't believe how the city rallied behind this project," says Randy. "The park has been incredibly popular and I couldn't ask for anything better."

Kevin O'Brien, Marketing and Communications Director for the National Bicycle League, which organizes the championship, is as excited about Randy about the venue.

"It's an incredible track, easily one of the best tracks in the country," he enthuses. "The challenging layouts, the technical jumps with bigger gaps for the pros, the wide trails, and the speed – the pros love it. The larger park offers so many attractions which make it great for families who want to make a holiday weekend of an event. It'san incredible facility and one of the best kept secrets in California."

"Kids today are moving beyond football, basketball and baseball and embracing extreme sports like inline skating, skateboarding, paintball and rock climbing, and we're actively addressing that burgeoning demographic," says Randall Cooper, Director of the Fresno Parks Department, who looks forward to more paintball facilities and at least 10 different skate and bicycle venues in the coming years. "We've just begun our action sports explosion with the opening of the largest public vert ramp west of the Mississippi at the Regional Sports Complex. In the coming months, we'll also be opening a dirt jump park, an 11-acre paintball facility and the nation's largest concrete bike park. Our goal is to be the Action Sports Capital of California, and we're well on our way with more sporting venues within our municipal boundaries than any other city in the state."

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