Sports Facilities

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Mountain Region: The Hills are Alive with Sports Destinations

28 Feb, 2009

By: Amy Henderson

When you think about the mountain region as a destination, what typically comes to mind is skiing, skating and snowboarding. Well, it's time to think again. Boxing, archery, skateboarding, and rodeos are quickly stepping up in the world of their well-known counterparts.

The mountain region is home to over 45 National Governing Bodies and other national sports organizations, including the United States Olympic Committee headquartered in Colorado Springs. The region also touts several professional sports with presence in the NBA, NHL, NFL and Major League Baseball. Not to mention an abundance of universities including Boise State, University of New Mexico, Air Force Academy, Brigham Young University, and the University of Colorado to name a few.

It only stands to reason with so many sports choosing to call this region their home, that there are plenty of world-class facilities to choose from.

Resources Abound
Fortunately for the mountain region, nature has provided ample choices of outdoor venues ranging from pristine ski and snowboarding trails to numerous courses for mountain biking, hiking, and road racing amid stunning backgrounds and breathtaking scenery.

That's not to say that the area doesn't provide excellent arenas to host your event. The Pepsi Center in Denver acts as the home court for the NBA Denver Nuggets but also hosts concerts, family shows and additional sporting events throughout the year. The same can be said for the Utah Jazz's Energy Solutions Arena, the Colorado Rockies Coors Fields and the 280,000 square feet Invesco Field, home to the Denver Broncos.

In Colorado Springs, the USOC Olympic Training Center,Aquatic and Fitness Center and Skate Park in Memorial Park provide excellent opportunities to host tournaments of all sizes.

Salt Lake City will host the Golden Glove National Championships in May at the Salt Palace Convention Center with hundreds of boxers expected to attend from over 30 clubs nationwide.

Down the road in Ogden, the Youth Archery World Championship will take place in July at Weber State University. This event is expected to draw over 450 athletes between ages 14 and 18 from over 50 countries and will act as the springboard to the first-ever Youth Olympic Games in Singapore in 2010.

The event is a result of visionary Greg Easton, president of Easton Technical products and a Board Member of the Easton Foundation. USA Archery needed the financial resources to fund the event and Easton wanted to help through the foundation and carry on a long history of family support of archery.

Easton partnered with owner of DP Event Marketing and former three-time Olympian in Archery Denise Parker to bring the Championship to the United States. "When we were looking in Utah, we defaulted to Salt Lake, but it was difficult to find the space close to hotels that was necessary," said Parker. "Ogden matched up nicely with Weber State, with inexpensive housing right next to several athletic fields and yet it is just five miles from downtown Salt Lake with access to great dining and activities."

Venue selection has to meet certain criteria for event planners before being chosen. "First and foremost the facilities have to match up. Second is the commitment. Ogden stepped up and showed they really wanted to be a partner," said Parker. "What really sold the deal was the commitment from the CVB. For some of these smaller towns, it means so much more. Their willingness to support and get the community involved. It made Ogden so much more enticing."

Expect the Unexpected
Boise, Idaho has become a popular destination for sports based on its climate. With average temperatures close to 40 degrees in the winter, the possibilities are endless for a full day's activity. "You can play golf in the day and ski at night with our slopes lit for night skiing," said Laurie McConnell, Communications Manager with the Boise Convention & Visitors Bureau.

That's not to say that winter sports don't play a part in the area. Boise will act as host to the 2009 Special Olympic Winter Games in February 2009. This event is expected to draw over 3,000 athletes and their families from over 100 nations.

The area has committed hotel accommodations from over 20 properties and several condominium communities as well as most of the area's venues including Qwest Arena which seats 5,000, Taco Bell Arena and several area ski resorts.

"I think the community support was one reason and we had all the necessary venues," said McConnell on the reason Boise was chosen to host the games.

Just down the road in Colorado Springs, planners are taking a second look. "We are known for clean air, blue skies, and our mild climate and of course the scenic views. It's a great chance to train or compete. Our climate provides great ways to increase stamina,said Cheryl McCullough with the Colorado Springs Convention & Visitors Bureau.

The 69th Annual Pike's Peak or Bust Rodeo will take place at the Norris Penrose Event Center in July which has over 51,000 square feet of outdoor event space and another 36, 00 square feet indoors.

Colorado Springs will also host the State Games of America July 30-August 2, 2009 host for the third time since it's inception in1978. It previously hosted the games in 2005 and 2007. The Games are a multi-sport event drawing approximately 10,000 athletes and their families to Colorado Springs and the surrounding communities. This event is expected to have an $11 million dollar impact on the area's economy. Some prominent athletes who have participated in previous games include, Mike Mussina, Kobe Bryant, Nancy Kerrigan, Doug Smith, and Paul Wylie.

Although New Mexico has both mountains and valleys, the area provides a little something for everyone.

"We hang our hat on diversity in terms of our climate. We have water, mountains and communities with tremendous facilities," said Brian O'Neil, executive director of the New Mexico Sports Authority. "In the summertime, we have the ideal temperature with the ideal weather. We're very diverse. Marathons are very popular and mountain and road cyclists are always welcomed here, it's a pleasure to have them here."

Proof of the community support of cycling is in the Duke City BMX Park, the only covered high altitude BMX Racing track and the largest in the world. The facility is a non-profit organization operated by volunteers. Originally financed through the City of Albuquerque, partners Duke City BMX and parent organization ABA, the park seats 1,000.

Bernalillo, New Mexico will host the Far West Regional Soccer Tournament at the State Farm Soccer Complex in 2010. Over 250 teams are expected to participate from 14 western state associations. The State Farm Soccer Complex has 22 fields available for tournaments.

Strategic Alliances
Sure cold weather sports are still the lifeline to any ski town in the winter due in large part to ideal weather conditions and premier venues, but the mountain region is reaching a wider audience through extensive marketing efforts and strategic partnerships.

The success of any event is often determined not only by the organizers, but their choice of destination, venue selections and community support. City, county and state-run organizations utilizing one another's resources generally equal a successful event.

"We work with six different entities in conjunction with one another. We take pride in our partnerships, working with the CVB's, major universities and our high schools," said O'Neill. "They are the direct line to get us to certain events coming to our state. Anything from archery, bowling and cycling. We work together to see what we can bring to their communities."

Colorado Springs has found great success in partnering with the USOC, Air Force Academy, City of Colorado Springs and National Strength and Conditioning. Considered the amateur sports capital of the country, "We are a great mid-size destination for grass roots sports," said McCollough.

Representatives of all major CVB's make it a point to promote their area through major trade shows, consistent networking and their websites. Two major trade shows for the sports market include National Association of Sports Commission – Denver, Colorado April 27-29, 2009 and the Travel Events and Management in Sports (TEAMS) convention in New Orleans, Louisiana October 13-17, 2009.

In choosing Denver for this year's NASC show, there were several factors that played into the selection, "First of all it's a recognized city and we knew that would appeal to our members," said Don Schumacher, executive director of NASC. "Denver met or exceeded our needs in the RFP (request for proposal) and we had a great deal of confidence in Metro Denver Sports Commission. We partnered with a member organization and they would see to it that all of our needs were met during the convention.

With over 600 attendees, the destination becomes a FAM trip to more than 100 owners or sports events.

What's New
O'Neill has a simple philosophy for his organization, "It's not always about being bigger or being better, but being different." And that's just what they have done with the Great Southwest Track and Field event taking place in June 2009 at the University of New Mexico Track & Field Stadium.

The New Mexico Sports Authority partnered with the University of Mexico, event organizers and proview networks.com to utilize the latest technology to enhance the athletes' experience. The technology provides a video stream of the event to allow families of the athletes who are unable to attend to still see the action and results. It has also allowed some key advertising opportunities for the New Mexico Sports Authority with banner ads and commercials.

Ensuring the area maintains its facilities and venues is also a priority. In Boise several select service hotels have opened in the area, which is perfect for sports groups. Also, several areas surrounding downtown Boise have renovated to provide unique shopping and dining options for visitors.

Colorado Springs has seen resurgence in area hotels with over $40 million dollars in renovations collectively and the opening of the Renaissance Hotel with 300 rooms and 50,000 square feet of meeting space opening in Spring 2010.

A new 40,000 square foot Skate Park in Memorial Park opened in Colorado Springs in December 2008, the only park of its type in the rocky mountain region. This multi-use park will allow more opportunities to pursue and host BMX and skateboarding tournaments.

With all of these resources available, partnerships being formed and renovations taking place it all boils down to the bottom line. The mountain region is a can't-miss destination for any sports event planner.

About the Author

Amy Henderson

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