Palm Beach County, Florida: Just Bring Your Game
29 Feb, 2012By: Peter Francesconi
Unsure where to hold your next event or tournament? Why not choose the ultimate sports paradise—an area with not only incomparable world-class competition and training facilities, but also a climate that virtually guarantees amazing weather year-round? Why not choose an area that is easy to get to, and has accommodations and amenities to make everyone feel welcome and comfortable?
In other words, why look anywhere other than Palm Beach County, Florida?
“We have the best of everything,” says George Linley, executive director of the Palm Beach County Sports Commission.
Sure, you may be thinking, that’s what he’s supposed to say. But when you look at all Palm Beach County has to offer to sports event owners, you'll realize the reality goes well beyond any hype.
In 2011, Palm Beach County supported more than 90 different sporting events at the local, state, regional and national levels. Events ranged from major high-profile events to 10-and-under basketball tournaments. They generated over 150,000 hotel room nights and had a $250 million impact on the local economy.
In short, sports are big business for Palm Beach County, and Linley and his staff know how to take care of organizers, athletes, coaches, and fans. “We’re a very active sports commission, and we pride ourselves on customer service and helping event owners produce top-quality events,” Linley says. “In addition to a grant program, we have a very skilled event operations and marketing department. Our team is here to service and partner with event owners to ensure a successful experience. Our motto is, ‘Just Bring Your Game.’”
The Palm Beach County Sports Commission has identified a niche market in hosting collegiate spring training events. “We are home to the premier college baseball, women’s college lacrosse and collegiate golf spring training events in the country,” Linley says. “Teams visit Palm Beach County during their spring breaks to train, scrimmage and compete in official NCAA-sanctioned games. We market Palm Beach County as a spring-break destination without your typical spring-break distractions. This allows athletes and coaches to visit an enjoyable destination while maintaining focus on their athletic needs.”
Palm Beach County has the infrastructure to support its events. More than 16,000 rooms are available in over 200 properties, ranging from economy/budget hotels to luxury resorts. There are 2,400 restaurants of all types. Palm Beach County has the convenience of an international airport, is on major highways, and is just 70 miles north of Miami and 152 miles south of Orlando. And then there’s the weather—averaging 78 degrees year-round, with nearly 250 sunny days a year.
Baseball is a huge economic driver for Palm Beach County. The county is home to the Florida Marlins and St. Louis Cardinals spring training, but last year also hosted 24 amateur baseball tournaments.
The premier baseball venue is Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter, a $28 million complex with one primary diamond and 12 supplementary fields, all with professional dimensions. The 7,000-seat stadium features luxury sky-boxes, parking and concessions. In addition to MLB spring training, the many amateur events the facility hosts include the USA Baseball 16U Championships, the Perfect Game World Wood Bat Championships (one of the largest tourneys in the world) and the Men’s Senior baseball League (MSBL) Florida Fall Classic, one of the largest amateur adult baseball tournaments in the country. The county also is a destination for college baseball teams, with the annual Palm Beach Challenge Spring training event.
In addition, there are four lighted, professionally sized fields at the Santaluces Athletic Complex in Lantana (former minor league spring training site for the Montreal Expos). The complex features lighted batting cages, covered seating area and concession area.
“We consider ourselves the golf capital of the world,” says Linley. That's no exaggeration: Palm Beach County has more than 120 country clubs that maintain 170 world-renowned courses. Like baseball, golf events range from professional through amateur tournaments. The Honda Classic in March is a premier stop on the PGA Tour, receiving live TV coverage. The county also hosts the Allianz Championships in February on the senior tour and the ADT Golf Skills challenge for eight top golf professionals.
“In addition to those pro events, we have some of the nation’s most competitive amateur golf tournaments,” says Linley. For instance, the Optimist International Junior Golf Championships in July brings in about 600 young golfers from 30 countries, and the American Junior Golf Association’s Polo Golf Junior Classic in November hosts 156 of the nation’s best youngsters.
Palm Beach County is home to more than 1,200 tennis courts and to tennis events that bring in top professionals to junior players. The Delray Beach International Tennis Championships take place in late February-early March at the Delray Beach Stadium & Tennis Center, one of south Florida’s premier tennis venues. The tournament is a key stop on the men’s ATP Tour, and one of only 15 in North America. The Delray Beach Stadium & Tennis Center, which has 14 clay courts, seven hard courts and an 8,200-seat stadium, also is home to an ATP Champions Tour event, featuring some of the legends of the game.
Amateur tennis tournaments and events also find multiple venues to accommodate players of all ages. In addition to adult tournaments, the area hosts the U.S. Tennis Association 18s and 16s Clay Court National Championships in July and the USTA 12s National Spring Championships in April. There is also the Florida Open International Wheelchair Tennis Championships, a top international event drawing nearly 200 wheelchair tennis players from 25 countries.
Palm Beach County has some of the best equestrian facilities in the world, including one of the largest—the 150-acre Palm Beach International Equestrian Center in Wellington, which has eight show rings in addition to its 8,000-seat International Arena. In fact, the international Winter Equestrian Festival, held over 12 weeks, creates the largest economic impact for any event in Palm Beach County, with 5,000 horses and 15,000 total participants, including riders, exhibitors and vendors.
Other world-class venues include the International Polo Club Palm Beach in Wellington, which hosts the world’s top polo players every year, culminating in the US Open in April. The venue has eight polo fields and 200 acres, with meeting spaces and a restaurant-entertainment area. Also, the Jim Brandon Equestrian Center in West Palm Beach offers 111 acres with a covered, lighted arena and seats for 1,000 spectators.
Field Sports and Swimming
Palm Beach County is the place for field sports—soccer, lacrosse, field hockey, softball, football, track & field and more. Palm Beach County Park and Rec has more than 45 parks with over 8,000 acres of space, including a variety of multipurpose fields and amenities for sporting events. In addition, other municipalities within the county have premier facilities and amenities.
“One of the advantages we have is that for large field events, we can utilize the space at, for instance, the International Polo Club and lay out dozens of soccer or hockey fields, all in one location. Very few facilities can do that,” says Linley.
West Palm Beach is home to the National Croquet Center, the world's largest dedicated croquet facility, with lawns spanning 4 acres and a 19,000-square-foot clubhouse. The center hosted the World Croquet Federation World Championships in 2009.
In October, Florida Atlantic University opened a new 30,000-seat stadium surrounded by multipurpose fields. The complex includes six locker rooms. “It opens up opportunities to pursue NCAA championship events and other tournaments that require a stadium environment,” says Linley.
Each year, Palm Beach County plays host to dozens of college swim teams. There are a number of excellent swimming complexes and aquatic centers, suitable for training and competition.
And, says Linley, the county is ready for anything else: fishing, beach volleyball, beach tennis, surfing, skating, BMX and more.
“When you bring your sport here,” Linley says, “we’ll take care of everything else. All you need to do is ‘Just Bring Your Game.’”
Find out more about Palm Beach County at www.palmbeachsports.com or call 561-233-3180.