Greensboro, North Carolina: Tournament Town
31 Dec, 2011By: Juli Anne Patty
The defining mark of a top-flight tournament town isn’t being the biggest, the loudest or even the oldest. It’s about balance. It’s about knowing how to effectively draw upon the factors that matter most, and that’s what you’ll find in Greensboro, N.C.
“We are blessed with an exceptional set of variables that make Greensboro an ideal setting for sporting events of all types and sizes,” says Kim Strable, president, Greensboro Sports Commission. “Our city is large enough to offer a complete package of hospitality options but small enough to ensure that featured events can grab plenty of attention.”
Greensboro’s facilities offer a paramount example of the city’s perfect balance. With facilities ranging from the extensive Greensboro Coliseum, the city’s anchor venue, to the intimate cross country course at Hagan Stone Park, Greensboro is a city that strives to create the perfect home for every sport, and the list of Greensboro facilities reflects that goal.
Greensboro Coliseum Complex
One of the most actively booked facilities in the country, the Greensboro Coliseum Complex hosts more than 850 events annually. The complex is a multi-building facility designed to deliver the highest-caliber activities, including athletic events, cultural arts, concerts, theater, educational activities, fairs, exhibits and public and private events of all kinds. The centerpiece to the complex is the 23,500-seat Greensboro Coliseum, the largest single-seat arena in the nation.
Within a mile of 2,500 hotel rooms, the coliseum offers an ideal location for many events including basketball, wrestling, gymnastics and martial arts. In 2011, the AT&T U.S. Figure Skating Championships came to the coliseum, the first venue in the history of the event to ever host the practice ice, competition ice and fan fest all under one roof.
The Greensboro Coliseum Complex also features the 2,400-seat War Memorial Auditorium, 300-seat Odeon Theatre, the 167,000-square foot Special Events Center, which includes three exhibition halls, a 4,500-seat mini-arena; eight meeting rooms, a 30,000-square-foot pavilion and a new outdoor amphitheatre offering an intimate environment for all types of entertainment. Add to that a tribute to the Atlantic Coast Conference called the ACC Hall of Champions and you have a complex that is truly multi-dimensional.
Greensboro Aquatics Center
Also located within the Greensboro Coliseum Complex, the brand-new Greensboro Aquatic Center (GAC) is a state-of-the-art facility featuring groundbreaking concepts in aquatic design and performance. The 78,323-square-foot facility brings together all major aquatic sports—competitive swimming and diving, water polo, synchronized swimming and other unique sports—in one venue. The GAC includes three bodies of water, including competition and warm-up pools and a diving well for platform and springboard diving, all of which meet NCAA and FINA standards.
With a 2,500-person seating capacity, the GAC makes the ideal competition venue, offering Greensboro the opportunity to host high school and collegiate events, USA Swimming meets, Masters Swimming and U.S. Water Polo events as well as a myriad of local, regional, national and international competitions.
“Before the GAC even opened, we booked over 36 events, and that’s unprecedented. So far the Center has amassed an economic impact of about $40 million,” says Henri Fourrier, president, Greensboro Convention & Visitors Bureau.
The GAC has signed a three-year deal to host the YMCA youth short course and diving championships. At the GAC ribbon-cutting ceremony Jim Wheaton, national director of events for YMCA of the USA, told the crowd, “… I picked up this magazine”— holding up a US Airways magazine—“and I devoured for two hours page after page of your community. And when I got off that plane, I thought, 'Yeah, I believe in my heart, Greensboro is the place we ought to be.’”
USA Synchronized Swimming concurred, traveling to the GAC for its 2012 Olympic team trials. In 2012, approximately 600 of the nation’s top young divers will converge on the GAC to participate in the USA Diving Age Group National Championships and the USA Diving Junior National Championships from August 5-10. These events will culminate with the AT&T National Diving Championships, expected to draw approximately 125 of the nation’s best divers, including members of the U.S. Olympic team.
Greensboro’s premier soccer facility, Bryan Park is the home of Greensboro United and one of the most beautiful soccer venues in the United States. The 17 bermuda grass fields are reserved for competition, so they maintain a fantastic surface. The Bryan Park Complex is a destination facility cared for by Greensboro’s award winning Parks and Recreation Department. The park features the 3,000-seat Macpherson Stadium, complete with locker rooms and concession area, and has hosted numerous events, including the US Soccer Academy Summer Showcase, four US Youth Soccer Region III Championships, the NCAA III Men’s and Women’s National Championships on three occasions, and for the past 15 years, the North Carolina Youth Soccer Association Final 4.
Irwin Belk Track
Renowned for its fast Mondo track surface and overall stadium facility, North Carolina A&T's Irwin Belk Track has been the setting of numerous record-breaking track moments as well as the home of several champion and All American track athletes. The 21,500-seat Aggie Stadium and Irwin Belk Track has also been home to a number of preeminent events, including the 2009 USATF Junior Olympics, the 2010 NCAA East Championships and the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Outdoor Track and Field Championships.
For six consecutive years, the Aggies have hosted the newly named New Balance Outdoor Nationals, an event that brings the best high school athletes in the world to Greensboro. The North Carolina High School Athletic Association Track and Field Championships also called the Irwin Belk Track home for the sixth consecutive year in 2011.
Facilities of Champions
Greensboro offers an extensive inventory of venues, from the exceptional J Spencer Love Tennis Center (as well as six additional fine tennis facilities) to the extensive indoor and outdoor facilities at the 22-acreProehlific Park.
That’s just the beginning. Greensboro is as long on experience as it is on remarkable facilities. Long-running events like this year’s 72nd Wyndham Championship, among the oldest events on the PGA tour and North Carolina’s oldest professional golf event, prove that Greensboro is a sports town that knows not just how to launch an event, but also how to make it a success for generations.
“What makes it all come together is our central location,” says Fourrier. “In the middle of both North Carolina and the Eastern Seaboard, Greensboro is easily accessible, a five-hour drive from Atlanta and D.C., serviced by three major airports in Greensboro, Raleigh and Charlotte.”
A town of 235,000, Greensboro’s size offers the amenities, attractions and resources of a big city with the ease and feel of a small town. “The size of Greensboro is important—to athletes and families and fans. Bring your event to Greensboro, and your presence is felt here,” says Fourrier. “Convenience is also a huge plus. I tell everyone: nothing in Greensboro is more than twenty minutes away.”
Greensboro also has its own brand of Southern hospitality, according to Fourrier. Greensboro citizens are proud of their city and involved in all its events, a factor that has given Greensboro a reputation as a town that draws an exciting crowd of spectators for its events and also provides a strong volunteer base.
“There is a love of sports in this community. People here embrace our ‘Tournament Town’ moniker, and it’s demonstrated by a high level of volunteerism and participation,” says Strable. “Put all that together, and you in fact have a perfect scenario that is not easily duplicated.”
A Bright Future
This is one sports town that where the clock never runs out. In Greensboro, the game always goes on, and the Greensboro community is always looking for more ways to play. Currently, the city is conducting a feasibility study that will identify enhancement opportunities including a new, larger cross country course, with the hopes of bringing more events to the area as well as providing the community’s athletes with an improved venue. The city also performs a regular facilities survey to encourage updating or expansion, ensuring that Greensboro maintains its title of Tournament Town champion. Find out more at www.visitgreensboronc.com.