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Get Back to the Beach: Virginia Beach, Virginia

31 Oct, 2011

By: Juli Anne Patty

Locating your event in a beachfront vacation destination is a surefire strategy for infusing a sports event with irresistible draw; unfortunately, highly desired oceanfront locales often come with high price tags. If you think your budget puts the draw of an oceanside competition out of reach, it’s time to think again. This time, think Virginia Beach.  

More than 100 of the world's top professional riders and an estimated 300 amateur surfers travel to Virginia Beach to rip the waves at the annual East Coast Surfing Championship - North America's oldest surfing contest.

Virginia Beach boasts 35 miles of shoreline, three beaches, nearly 12,000 hotel rooms and countless restaurants and shops, but this beachfront destination also has something else that sets it apart: outstanding, affordable, world-class facilities to accommodate any sports event. 

“We have a lot of new and flexible facilities, varied for all types of events, both indoor and outdoor,” says Buddy Wheeler, sports marketing coordinator, Virginia Beach Convention and Visitors Bureau. “What’s more, with mild year-round weather and affordable rates throughout the fall and spring shoulder seasons, you can keep any event budget-friendly.” 

Virginia Beach Convention Center

The Virginia Beach Convention Center—the first of its kind in the country to be certified as LEED® Gold for Existing Buildings—is a prime example of the exceptional class of facilities you’ll find in the resort city. Capturing the true essence of the coastal destination with its innovative design, the facility features 516,000 square feet of flexible meeting space, including a 150,000-square-foot, column-free exhibit hall, a 31,029-square-foot ballroom and 2,230 free parking spaces. Manned by a seasoned staff of service-oriented professionals, the facility offers competitive rates and is situated just blocks from one of the mid-Atlantic’s most beautiful beaches. 

Open since 2004, the Convention Center’s team has hosted numerous major sporting events, including the USA Field Hockey National Indoor Tournament and the USA Gymnastics U.S. Classic. 

The Virginia Beach Convention Center has been the home of the National High School Coaches Association (NHSCA) National High School Wrestling Championships since May 2007 and will continue to host the event through 2019. Last spring, more than 1,500 wrestlers from across the nation hit the mats at the convention center for the first day of the championships.

Virginia Beach Field House

Offering more than 175,000 square feet of event space, the Virginia Beach Field House is home to leagues, camps, clinics and tournaments for youth and adults in soccer, flag football, volleyball, basketball, arena (indoor) baseball and softball, field hockey, lacrosse, dodgeball and other sports. The facility boasts state-of-the-art, synthetic-grass fields, which many users say are safer than real grass due to the regularity of the surface as well as the extra cushioning.  

An all-indoor facility, the field house ensures that the game will always go on, whether you’re playing the six turf fields, eight volleyball courts or four basketball courts. The facility also includes ways to make those non-game hours exciting, including a food court, multiple party rooms and an arcade.

Princess Anne Athletic Center

The Princess Anne Athletic Complex is located in the heart of Princess Anne Commons, across the street from the Virginia Beach Sportsplex and the Farm Bureau Live at Virginia Beach amphitheater. The facility offers eight lighted, tournament-quality softball fields, seven multi-purpose, all-Bermuda grass playing fields (two lighted), and two concession stands. In November 2011, the Princess Anne Athletic Center will host the USA Rugby Women’s Premier League, Division 1 and Division 2 Championship Tournaments.

Hampton Roads Soccer Complex

The Hampton Roads Soccer Complex boasts 75 acres of all things soccer, drawing more than 50,000 out-of-town visitors each year. The impressive venue features 19 grass turf fields (mix of youth and adult sizes), which host a number of soccer and outdoor field events, and is located less than one mile from the Virginia Beach SportsPlex.

Virginia Beach Sportsplex

Just a 15-minute drive from the oceanfront and located close to the Farm Bureau Live at Virginia Beach amphitheater and the Virginia Beach National Golf Course, the Virginia Beach Sportsplex is a state-of-the-art, multi-sport/multi-use facility composed of the Sportsplex Stadium, Sportsplex Field Hockey National Training Center, Sportsplex Criterium and Sportsplex Athletic Fields.  

The Sportsplex Stadium seats 6,000 on two levels with the unique option of berm (grass) seating, which brings the stadium capacity to 10,000.  

The Playing Field offers a state-of-the-art Sportexe turf surface, which creates a denser field, enhancing speed and ensuring a consistent ball roll. The playing surface is sized to accommodate international soccer matches, making it perfect for a variety of field events, including football, field hockey, rugby and lacrosse. 

The Field Hockey National Training Center, one of America’s most prestigious field hockey complexes, features two lighted artificial turf fields and has been home to USA Field Hockey events such as the National Futures Championship, National Women’s Championship and JFK Club Championship.

Every Event is the Big Event

The Speed of the Irish

Celebrating its 40th anniversary in March 2012, the Yuengling Shamrock Marathon is the oldest continuously running road race in Virginia Beach. Starting in the resort area, then crossing Rudee Inlet—the gateway to the Atlantic Ocean—the tree-lined course—known for both its beauty and speed—leads participants past the site where Jamestown colonists first landed in America in 1607 and finishes on the world-famous Virginia Beach boardwalk. Drawing nearly 25,000 total participants in all its races (marathon, half-marathon, 8K and mile), the Yuengling Shamrock Marathon generated $5.5 million in direct spending in 2011, making it a clear win for all involved.

East Coast Surfing Championships

In 1965, the still-new East Coast Surfing Championships (ECSC) settled on its permanent home in a new hot spot of Atlantic Ocean surfing: Virginia Beach. In 2012, 47 years later, the ECSC is running stronger than ever, the second-longest, continuously run surfing contest in the world.

USA Table Tennis National Championships

Showing that a beach destination makes the perfect counterpoint to an inside sports event, Virginia Beach welcomes USA Table Tennis to the Virginia Beach Convention Center. The USA Table Tennis National Championship is USA Table Tennis’ premier event, drawing hundreds of competitors from around the country. Maximizing the event’s vacation-friendly feel, a continuous, free shuttle service delivers attendees to all partner hotel properties (as well the beach). 

The North American Sand Soccer Championships - the world's largest sand soccer tournament takes place in Virginia Beach. It showcases approximately 10,000 players and 950 teams.

North American Sand Soccer Championships

In 1992, an UMBRO USA official made a casual recommendation to a Beach FC travel soccer club president: “With an oceanfront like Virginia Beach, you really ought to try sand soccer!” With that, the concept of the COOP North American Sand Soccer Championships (NASSC) began. 

Pro Beach Soccer has exploded, and so have the North American Sand Soccer Championships, with over 900 teams and 9,100 athletes from 20 countries competing in the COOP U.S. OPEN pro/am division in 2011. That equates to total attendance of approximately 35,000 players, coaches and fans, without including the many boardwalk spectators that the event draws. Virginia Beach’s military organizations have become major event supporters in NASSC site construction, providing hundreds of volunteers and teams.

Beyond the Beach

In Virginia Beach, year-round mild temperatures allow visitors to enjoy the oceanfront well into the fall and winter months. While you’re there, be sure to take a stroll along the famed 3-mile boardwalk or check out JT’s Grommet Island Beach Park and Playground for EveryBODY—the first 100% handicapped-accessible oceanfront playground in the country.

Runners line up at the starting lines for Virginia Beach's Killian's Red Shamrock Sportsfest in March, featuring a full marathon, a half marathon and an 8K.

Those seeking a timeout from the sand and surf will find plenty more to do in the resort city. Outdoor enthusiasts can explore more than 18,600 acres of state parks and wildlife refuges, tee off on award-winning golf courses or embark on chartered fishing excursions. Visitors seeking shelter can dive into an undersea world of adventure at the Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center; view works from internationally acclaimed artists at Virginia Beach’s Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA); or make a splash at Ocean Breeze Waterpark, located less than two miles from the oceanfront.  

Whatever your ideal vacation or event, chances are it’s waiting in Virginia Beach, and fortunately so is Virginia Beach’s experienced and dedicated Sports Marketing staff. A full-time support staffer leads the charge throughout every event—from ensuring you’ll find the ideal facility and accommodations to call home to helping manage every event detail. To learn more about how to get back to the beach, check out www.VisitVirginiaBeach.com/sportsmarketing.

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