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Sandy Springs, GA: Where Sports and Nature Meet

31 Aug, 2010

By: Juli Anne Patty

Just a few minutes from Atlanta, Sandy Springs, Georgia's sixth largest city, is ready to welcome sports events of all kinds to its charming community. Sandy Springs offers a truly unique set of facilities and amenities, all in one place, all within a short drive of the sights, attractions and amenities of downtown Atlanta.

Step into Sandy Springs
With a population of nearly 100,000, Sandy Springs is a city in its own right, but it's also tucked alongside the major metropolis of downtown Atlanta, offering athletes and guests immediate access to big-city excitement and traditional Southern charm.

Named for the natural springs within the community and bounded by the legendary Chattahoochee River, Sandy Springs is a society centered by water and committed to acting as stewards of its land. This dedication shows in the city's unique and plentiful parks and recreation opportunities, enjoyed by both residents and sports events guests alike.

Hail to the King
"We've got a lot of excellent traditional facilities in Sandy Springs, but we've also got several unique sites," says Kym Hughes, executive director, Sandy Springs Hospitality & Tourism. "We could do some really exciting and unusual events very well."

One of those sites is a Sandy Springs icon: the King and Queen buildings. Completed in 1988 and 1991, the 34-story towers are technically named Concourse Corporate Center V and VI, but are known by all who pass them daily on Highway Georgia 400 (which recently got its own official nickname, "Hospitality Highway") as the"King and Queen" towers, thanks to the chess-piece inspired white crowns that top them. At 570 feet and 553 feet, they are the two tallest suburban buildings in the United States.

"I've talked to a few firefighters about some of the races they put together in other cities, which involve stair climbs," says Hughes. "Not only are these buildings tall, but they're also conveniently situated in a less congested environment than most skyscrapers, which would make the King and Queen towers the perfect site for that sort of event. We'd love to host one in Sandy Springs."

Located alongside the King and Queen is another crown glory of Sandy Springs' sports facilities, Concourse Athletic Club, Atlanta's premier athletic and tennis club, which offers, among many other facilities, a state-of-the-art indoor track that was used for athlete training during the 1996 Atlanta Summer Olympics, as well as seven outdoor clay tennis courts that host a variety of instructional, social,and competitive programs.

Sandy Springs Tennis Center
Speaking of tennis, this is one sport with serious traction in the capital of the South. Just a short drive from Concourse Athletic Club's tennis facility is the heart of tennis in Sandy Springs: the Sandy Springs Tennis Center.

Tennis Magazine calls Sandy Springs Tennis Center "one of the finest public facilities in the country," and tennis tournament directors clearly agree; the facility has hosted of more than 130 U.S. Tennis Association (USTA) sanctioned tournaments as well as the 2008 Junior International Tennis Invitational.

Sandy Springs Tennis Center boasts 24 lighted courts, 20 hard and four clay, a clubhouse, pro shop, locker rooms, a clubroom and a jogging trail.

A Walk in the Park
Sandy Springs is proud of its dedication to the environment, a commitment that shows in the city's green space. Sandy Springs makes an effort to use its natural environment to create sports facilities whenever possible and also place its sports facilities within its natural environment. In Sandy Springs, you'll find softball fields just a short walk from rivers, soccer fields in parks with nature trails and canopies of magnificent trees and natural wonders surrounding everything.

In July 2010, Sandy Springs unveiled its latest outdoor destination, Overlook Park at Morgan Falls. The city invested nearly $3.4 million to create the park, which features hiking trails that scale a bluff overlooking the Chattahoochee River. Overlook Park at Morgan Falls offers a range of facilities, particularly ones that would make it an ideal launch pad for water sports events, including a floating dock that provides access to the Chattahoochee River and two boathouses. Other amenities include a large playground and a 300-person, 3,200-square-foot open-air pavilion.

Sandy Springs' other parks include the Great Park at Morgan Falls—also located alongside the Chattahoochee River—and another stunning outdoor recreation area, the John Ripley Forbes Big Trees Forest Preserve (www.bigtreesforest.com). The Big Trees Forest Preserve is 30-acre outdoor facility designed and managed to offer a relaxing visual, mental and spiritual oasis in a protected tree, plant and wildlife sanctuary.

"The Forest Preserve is another one of our extraordinary facilities," says Hughes. "It would make the most wonderful home for a sports event, like a yoga conference or retreat, that requires a peaceful location that's also convenient to all of the resources and amenities of a large city."

A River Runs Through It
No discussion of the remarkable natural wonders of the city of Sandy Springs would be complete without taking a quick trip down the Chattahoochee. With 20 miles of its shoreline stretching through Sandy Springs, "the Hooch," as the river is known to Georgians, offers abundant recreational and competitive sporting opportunities to Atlantans and guests of the city, not to mention a few well-celebrated chances to enjoy the community and its natural gifts.

One of those opportunities is the annual Summer Splash, celebrating its third year in 2010, which brought more than 600 residents and visitors together this July for a 6-mile trip down the Hooch. The Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area (www.nps.gov/chat) creates the event in partnership with the Sandy Springs Hospitality and Tourism. Boaters gather at Morgan Falls Dam, where they can rent boats, kayaks and canoes or put in their own water vessel, and then head down the Hooch to Powers Island, where they celebrate the summer with a festival of food, activities and music.

Get Moving
All of this focus on nature and sports is bound to create a community of athletic individuals, and Sandy Springs has them in abundance. To keep its huge population of runners and bikers happy, the city also hosts a wide range of races throughout the year.

"The Chattahoochee Road Runners, our local running club, hosts a number of races, but one in particular, held each March, is touted as the fastest Peachtree Road Race qualifier in the state," explains Hughes. The Peachtree Road Race, a 10K held annually on July 4 in downtown Atlanta, is one of running's most famous short-distance feats.

Bike races also abound in Sandy Springs, but one in particular gets big attention, since it shuts down an entire section of Hospitality Highway. The annual Hospitality Highway Century Ride offers bikers the opportunity to do something that would otherwise be impossible (not to mention illegal): to ride along one of the metro's main arteries, Georgia Highway 400. Cyclists can choose a short or long route, from 8 miles up to 100 miles and ride to raise funds for Georgia transplants.

Fields of Your Dreams
Sandy Springs has outdoor opportunities aplenty, but the city is also rich in traditional sports facilities, including those of North Springs High School. The high school works with Sandy Springs Hospitality and Tourism to host events at its fine facilities, which include recent upgrades such as a synthetic-turf athletic field, competition track, score board, updated field house, resurfaced basketball court and resurfaced tennis courts. In 2005, the high school completed a state-of-the-art baseball field and the school is currently planning and raising funds for several additional sports facilities improvements.

A Sports Event the Southern Way
If you're looking for an event site that serves up some serious sports experience with a side of charm, Sandy Springs is destination. To find out more, visit them at www.visitsandysprings.org or contact Kym Hughes at kymberly.hughes@sandyspringsga.org or 770-206-1436.

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