Baseball: America’s Game, America’s Facilities
29 Feb, 2012By: Juli Anne Patty
“I see great things in baseball. It's our game—the American game.” - Walt Whitman
All over America this spring, coats are being tucked away and short sleeves are replacing sweaters. But for many Americans, the most important part of spring isn’t wardrobe or even warmth: it’s baseball.
While spring marks the sport’s official season-opener, baseball can be found in some form all year long, creating a serious need for baseball facilities all across the country.
Lane County, Oregon
“We’re very youth-oriented in Lane County, and we’re very serious about sports,” says Sue Harshbarger, director of sports sales and development, Eugene Cascades & Coast Sports. “We have so many parents who are incredibly involved in baseball here, and that’s why it’s such a success. Everyone gets involved.”
Shared by the University of Oregon Ducks and Class A short season professional team, the Eugene Emeralds, PK Park is a state-of-the-art park open year-round. PK Park offers seating for approximately 3,600 fans and is fully accessible with ramps and seating at both the concourse and field levels.
Another premium facility, Willamette Valley Babe Ruth Complex is a completely updated four-field complex that hosts more than 2,000 youth baseball players in more than 2,500 youth baseball games each year. In 2012, the Cal Ripken 10-Year-Old and Major 70 Pacific Northwest Regional Championships will call the facility home.
Swede Johnson Stadium, home of North Eugene High School and the Eugene Challengers summer baseball team, offers yet another Lane County facility. It seats 1,000 and is known as one of the nation's finest amateur structures.
More than 5,200 hotel rooms and 263 days of sunshine per year make Lubbock, Texas, a natural fit for a wide range of baseball events. Yet another reason to check out Lubbock: over 13 unique baseball complexes, including Lubbock Christian University’s newly-renovated Hays Field and Texas Tech’s legendary Dan Law Field, which has hosted the Premier Sophomore Baseball Tournament, NJCA Region 5 Baseball and High School Playoffs.
Personal service is another of Lubbock’s signature draws.
"In addition to coordinating every detail of your event from hotels to officials and locating nearby restaurants and attractions, Lubbock Sports also works to market your event to increase the number of participants and spectators," says Adrianna Alter, communications coordinator, Lubbock Convention and Visitors Bureau.
But out of all its services, Lubbock Sports offers groups an unmatched quality of hospitality that every group appreciates. Lubbock’s partners are first to agree.
"Scott [Harrison, sports director] and Lubbock Sports continue to make Premier Baseball feel like they are wanted and valued by Lubbock,” says Don Patty, president, Premier Baseball. “They are always asking us what we need to make our event a success and have always provided us with an excellent solution. I truly feel that when working with Lubbock Sports, I'm working with a friend and a partner I can depend on."
Central location, more than 3,600 hotel rooms, and a huge variety of dining and attractions all give Columbia major appeal, but this central Missouri city's facilities can really seal the deal.
The Lewis P. (Tony) Antimi Sports Complex offers eight combination baseball/softball fields, two for tee-ball, while Thomas Country Atkins Jr. Memorial Park provides three lighted baseball fields. Four lighted baseball fields await at Twin Oaks Sports Center, which also features batting cages.
Event-hosting experience is a Columbia specialty as well: Twin Oaks hosts the 11U/14U AA State Championships, the USSSA 9U to 14U Open National Academy and Club Championships, and the Missouri Home School High School State Championships, while Antimi hosts three USSSA A/AA State Tournaments annually, as well as the Central “A” State and All Star State Championships.
Events in Columbia are also sometimes eligible for support from the Columbia CVB’s Sports Development Fund. Applications must be made 120 days before the event’s start date for funds that can be applied to site fees, bid fees, trophies, medals, monetary awards, rights/sanction fees and promotional materials.
High Point, North Carolina
A city that grew up alongside its esteemed Biannual High Point Market, which draws more than 75,000 each spring and fall, High Point is equipped to handle even the most monumental event beautifully. Case in point: the North Carolina Special Olympics.
“We put all of our facilities to use for the Special Olympics, including the Miracle Field, one of only two in North Carolina,” says Nancy Bowman, marketing and communication manager, High Point Convention and Visitors Bureau. “We have an outstanding parks and rec department, and they help make it an incredible event.”
Located within the High Point Athletic Complex, a 46-acre park that also includes a 400-meter track, soccer field and multipurpose athletic field, the Miracle Field provides children with an intellectual and/or physical disability the opportunity to play baseball.
High Point also offers baseball facilities at Allen Jay Park (three fields), Deep River Park (three fields), Johnson Street Sport Complex (three fields and two tee ball fields) and Gibson Park (two fields), with single fields at several other parks. The city’s collegiate facility, High Point University’s Erath Field, has recently undergone major renovations, including a new infield, irrigation and scoreboard.
Bryan-College Station, Texas
“When it comes to baseball, parks and rec are our experts because of the successful leagues they run,” says Kindra Fry, director of group sales, sports and conventions, Bryan-College Station Convention and Visitors Bureau. “They do a great job of maintaining excellent facilities and have been wonderful partners for us.”
Southwood Athletic Park is home to many of College Station's baseball events, including numerous Super Series and AAU tournaments. Designed by the staff in response to perceived community needs, the park offers four Little League lighted baseball fields and two Senior League lighted baseball fields.
“We’ve also used our excellent high school facilities for tournaments, and we’ve used Texas A&M’s Olsen field. It’s a high-caliber facility, and it gives players the chance to be on campus and see the school, too,” says Fry.
Olsen Field is undergoing major renovations, which will be complete for the first pitch in spring. Local business Blue Bell Creamery was a significant donor to the project, and the stadium is being renamed Blue Bell Park at Olsen field.
Plano is minutes from all of the Dallas excitement, but far enough removed to make a visit to Plano free of big-city stress. That, along with the city’s deep bench of excellent facilities, has made Plano popular with sports event planners and sports families alike.
And these aren’t just any baseball facilities: these are Texas-sized facilities. Archgate Park boasts seven fields, while Enfield Park, home of Triple Crown Baseball’s north Texas season opener, offers eight fields. High Point Park is home to nine fields, and Carpenter Park, host of several Homeschool World Series Association events, offers eight fields. Plano’s baseball-loving community keeps all of these fields busy with league play and tournaments.
“We also have a really special championship-type field, Frito Lay/Pepsi Championship Youth Ballpark,” says Cissy Aberg, sports marketing manager, Plano Convention and Visitors Bureau. “It’s a wonderful space that gives the kids who play there a great professional-feeling experience.”
Aberg knows what she’s talking about, too. A mother of two boys, she spent many years living in Dallas and traveling to Plano for tournaments. “It helps to have such a good idea what parents and athletes need, and what we can offer to make their sports experiences great.”
Louisiana might be best known for its festivals and food, but baseball is definitely not far behind. Tim Robichaux is the Acadia Parks and Recreation director, and he’s the man in charge of the area’s fine facilities as well as their Pony-affiliated tournaments.
“We hold all of our tournaments at the City of Crowley Recreation Department,” says Robichaux. “It’s a four-field cloverleaf and offers 10 softball fields as well. Baseball is very big here, probably because of the long history of professional baseball in our area.”
That history began at Miller Stadium, built in 1948 as the home of the Crowley Millers who played in South Louisiana’s Semi-Pro Teche League, the professional Gulf Coast League. Now Miller Stadium serves the needs of Acadia Parish’s youth, local high school teams and American Legion and Semi-Pro teams, serving as host for two Mid South State 16 and under Tournaments, two Mid South Regional Tournaments, Colt League District, State, Regional and Zone Tournaments since 1998.
Findlay-Hancock County, Ohio
Within a day’s drive of most of the eastern United States, Findlay has location on its side, but this northwest Ohio community has a lot more than centrality to offer.
“Our biggest draw for baseball is our complex, the Marathon Diamonds, a five-field facility. It has all kinds of amenities like inset bleachers and lit fields, but what’s really neat about it is that it’s run through a public-private partnership,” says Angela Crist, director, Findlay-Hancock Convention and Visitors Bureau. “The emphasis wasn’t on attracting tournaments. Parents just wanted a really cool place for their kids to play baseball, and that really comes through.”
Marathon Diamonds has hosted the whole range of tournaments from U10 through collegiate for organizations including Little League, the Ohio High School Athletic Association and the University of Findlay. One the area’s biggest tournaments is the Nations Baseball World Series, which has called Findlay home for the past two years.
“We have approximately 45 competition-ready fields, and the distance between the two farthest is only fifteen minutes,” says Crist. “People say, how are these facilities in a town this size? But this is just a town with a strong collaborative atmosphere. We find that when people bring tournaments here, they want to come back.”
With a long history of hosting major league spring training, Tucson today uses its outstanding facilities to give young athletes a taste of baseball’s big time.
Kino Sports Complex, former home of the Diamondbacks and White Sox, is a 13-field complex with a stadium that seats 11,000 (8,000 stadium, 3,000 grass) that recently became available for amateur and other events. Vince Trinidad, director, Tucson Sports, is excited about the possibilities.
“When there’s a major league contract, the facility stays tied up for a good portion of the year,” Trinidad explains. “Now that they’re no longer there, the sky’s the limit.”
They started by creating a new event, “Vamos a Tucson,” a Mexican baseball fiesta featuring three teams from the professional Pacific League of Mexico.
“It was an amazing event, so much fun,” says Trinidad. “Our success in the first year drives us to do it again next year. We’ll definitely do it again.”
Another former spring training facility, Hi Corbett Field, opened up recently for event planners seeking a classic, historical venue. Built in 1937, it was the home of the Cleveland Indians and, more recently, the Colorado Rockies. The filming site of the movie “Major League” and now home to the University of Arizona Wildcats Baseball Program, this facility includes an iconic stadium with four auxiliary fields.
Round Rock, Texas
When it comes to sports, Round Rock's crown jewel is Old Settler's Park. The park's 570 acres offers first-class amenities, plenty of parking, rolling hills and sweeping vistas that make it the perfect venue for family fun, outdoor festivals, sports events of all kinds, and especially baseball.