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Winston-Salem, North Carolina: The Sports Town with the Element of Surprise

14 Jan, 2014

By: Mary Helen Sprecher

Winston-Salem, North Carolina, is located in the Piedmont Triad (sometimes just called the Triad), meaning the three major cities of Winston-Salem, Greensboro and High Point.

What sports planners should know, though, is that Winston-Salem is a triad unto itself. There’s the Winston-Salem planners have long known, with outstanding athletic facilities at Wake Forest University and Winston-Salem State University. There’s the Winston-Salem of today, with state-of-the-art sports complexes and a plethora of restaurants and shops. Then there’s the Winston-Salem of the future – constantly expanding, innovating and inviting new athletes to play under its sunny skies.

The area has the element of surprise in its favor, with an unexpectedly broad range of options for sports planners.

“Winston-Salem is a destination for all ages and abilities from youth to masters and amateur to professional,” says Bonny Bernat, sports and event sales manager with Visit Winston-Salem. “We’re affordable, easily accessible and we pride ourselves on our high quality sports venues.”

Innovations in Track and Field

Track and field events were contested at the earliest Olympic Games, but those ancient Greek athletes never dreamed of a facility like JDL Fast Track. This dedicated indoor track and field facility opened in January 2012 and houses a 200-meter oval track surfaced with a Mondotrack FTX, the same brand used at the 2012 Olympic Games in London. Field event areas include two pole vault runways, two long/triple jump runways, one high jump apron and one throwing area. The facility also includes a 100-meter warm-up track, office and meeting space, a training room and more.

“JDL Fast Track, Winston-Salem and Winston-Salem State University have partnered to host the 2014 NCAA Division II National Indoor Track & Field Championships in March,” notes Christian Schroeder, director of sales and services at Visit Winston-Salem. “Since opening in 2012, JDL Fast Track has hosted youth, collegiate, and masters indoor meets including multiple collegiate conference championships.  Winston-Salem will also host USA Masters Outdoor Track & Field Championships at Wake Forest University in July.”

In addition, Winston-Salem will host the NCAA Division III Indoor Track & Field Championships in 2015, expected to bring in at least 2,000 participants.

Ace Tennis Facilities

Looking for a top-notch tournament site? The Wake Forest Tennis Complex, completed in the summer of 2011, was designed with the ability to host NCAA Tennis championship events.  And in 2018, Winston-Salem will host the NCAA Division I Men's & Women's Tennis Championships. This event, slated for May 17-28, will bring more than 1,600 participants to the tennis center.

The outdoor facility features 13 Deco-Turf II courts with optimal spectator sightlines and is conveniently located next to the Wake Forest Indoor Tennis Center, which houses eight indoor courts. In addition to being the home of the Demon Deacons throughout the school year, the complex hosts the Winston-Salem Open at Wake Forest University, an ATP World Tour 250 event.

Wake Forest’s courts aren’t the only ones in town, though. Athletes can take advantage of the tennis facilities at Winston-Salem State University, the Joe White Tennis Center at Hanes Park, Tanglewood Community Tennis Center and the more than 25 parks within the Winston-Salem area that also offer tennis courts.

Fields for Champions

Another recent addition to Winston-Salem’s inventory of sports facilities is the BB&T Ballpark. The park was designed as the home of the Winston-Salem Dash, the minor league baseball team of the Chicago White Sox. It seats 6,400 spectators and includes concessions.  In fact, the park is so accommodating that the Dash was ranked number-one nationally for Advanced A leagues in attendance its first year open.

The Winston-Salem area offers a variety of other baseball and softball fields, including facilities at Wake Forest as well as Little League facilities and ball fields on the park and rec level.

Soccer teams can find springy, green fields and a warm welcome in Winston-Salem. The BB&T Soccer Park hosts teams from across the United States. It offers 13 lighted natural grass fields, wi-fi capabilities, filming tower, outdoor misting stations and a field house with meeting space, locker rooms, concessions and training areas. Other amenities include a picnic shelter, walking paths, seating in the stadium for 1,400 (with additional hillside seating for 1,000), parking and multiple water stations.

Other notable Winston-Salem sports complexes that welcome athletes from far and wide include Hine Park Soccer Complex (seven fields), Sara Lee Soccer Complex (14 fields) and Ivey M. Redmon Sports Complex (three tournament-quality multi-purpose fields). Other fields can be found at Winston Salem’s local schools, community centers and parks.

Hoop Dreams

Wake Forest is a perennial hoops powerhouse and basketball’s roots run deep in Winston-Salem. The Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum is practically hallowed ground (the Demon Deacon men's and women's teams have combined to win nearly 400 games there) but it’s far from the only facility. Reynolds Gymnasium at Wake Forest has courts, as does Winston-Salem University. Schools and parks also offer up their facilities for competitions in situations where a large number of courts are needed.

The Golf Haven

Golf has long been a part of the Winston-Salem landscape, and nearly a dozen courses can challenge players from tournament-level athletes to weekend duffers. Among these, Tanglewood Park boasts two award-winning golf courses: the Championship Course, designed by the legendary Robert Trent Jones, Sr., and the Reynolds Course. Want more golf cred? Arnold Palmer went to Wake Forest – and he designed the course at Oak Valley Golf Club. Jack Nicklaus designed the championship course at Salem Glen Golf & Country Club.

The Surprising Sports of Winston-Salem

While tennis, soccer, baseball and other favorites keep facilities busy, Visit Winston-Salem officials say cyclists are a mainstay as well.

Recently, cycling has grown in our community,” says Schroeder. “After a successful inaugural event in 2013, the Winston-Salem Cycling Classic will be a UCI event in April 2014.”

Located inside Winston-Salem’s Tanglewood Park, Tanglewood BMX has hosted national events for 22 years. It features a lighted 1,150-foot-long downhill track with a concrete starting hill, paved turns and jumps of varying height. It also offers concessions, a shaded spectator area, grandstands and picnic tables.

Additionally, Winston-Salem has hosted billiards, bocce, bowling, boxing, cheerleading, cross country, cyclo-cross, disc golf, equestrian, fencing, field hockey, football, flag football, gymnastics, lacrosse, motor sports, mountain biking, pickleball, race walking, rodeo, rugby, triathlon, duathlon, Ultimate, volleyball and wrestling.

Easy to Get There, Easy to Stay There

Winston-Salem has 48 hotels in various price points, amounting to 4,800 rooms. The closest airport is Piedmont Triad International, only 25 minutes from the city center. Charlotte Douglas International and even Raleigh-Durham International Airport can also be used. Winston-Salem is conveniently situated off Interstate 40 and very close to I-85 and I-77. The weather is temperate and the amenities are plentiful. Restaurants (over 100 within the downtown area and still more outside of it) range from national chains to independent local eateries.

“The overall experience is most appealing,” says Schroeder. “Winston-Salem has big city amenities with small town charm.  Participants and spectators will enjoy pristine sports facilities along with a variety of dining, entertainment, and shopping options.”

Visit Winston-Salem offers a range of services to visiting teams and can provide information on housing, volunteers and more.

The city also has excellent sightseeing potential, thanks to its walkable streets and multiple cultural and historic attractions, as well as a warm welcome at every turn. It’s all a part of the showcase of surprises that is Winston-Salem.

“Whether you are an event rights holder or a team captain deciding on a tournament, you won’t be disappointed in your decision to come to Winston-Salem,” says Bernat. “Our community embraces sports and we know that your athletes, their families and your staff will experience true southern hospitality during their stay.”

For more information, see http://visitwinstonsalem.com or e-mail Bonny Bernat at Bonny@visitwinstonsalem.com.

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