Get Your Kicks in the Southwest
31 Aug, 2011By: Amy Henderson
Is it true that you can get your kicks on Route 66?
Apparently so, and Nat King Cole and the creators of "Cars" weren’t the only ones to realize it.
Route 66 runs through the bulk of the Southwest region of the U.S., traveling through Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico and Arizona. Along with these four states, the region includes Colorado, Nevada, Utah and California.
This region is no stranger to sports, with professional teams represented in Major League Baseball, NBA, NFL and NHL. Excellent municipal and collegiate facilities are scattered along Route 66 and spread across the entire region.
Getting there is half the fun
Miami, Oklahoma is on the longest stretch of the original Route 66 Ribbon Road. “Our location is key,” said Amanda Davis with the Miami Area Convention & Visitors Bureau. “We are in the corner of the four states and we have a lot of regional events because it’s close driving range from bigger cities.”
Cathy Williams White, Director of the Edmond Convention & Visitors Bureau agrees, “There are the fields and facilities but it’s also the accessibility. For things that are regional, it’s really easy for folks to get to us.”
Lubbock , Texas is on a mission to become the sports capital of western Texas and is well on the way.
“Lubbock’s size, weather and hospitality are what make Lubbock an excellent place to hold any sporting event,” explained Scott Harrison Sports Director of Visit Lubbock. “Because of our size, it is possible to get to and from each facility in about 10 minutes time.”
But location is not the only reason to visit.
There are in excess of 20,000 rooms in the Reno-Sparks, Nevada area. “The way you map out our hotels, the ease of getting around and our affordability are great assets that we have,” said John Leinen Vice President of Convention & Tourism Sales with the Reno-Spark Convention & Visitors Authority. “It’s not a big deal to get two or three teams in one hotel; it’s a pretty amazing thing for a planner.”
Miami has fewer hotel rooms, but lots of flexibility. “We can do a lot of things for less,” explained Davis. “We do a lot of things with fees and we are able to waive fees based on events. We can do a lot of things for less and for coaches trying to keep costs down, that’s attractive.”
The Southwest is also known for its weather, a great asset for Lubbock. “Lubbock’s warm climate allows for sporting events to be held during more months of the year,” said Scott Harrison Sports Director of Visit Lubbock. “We have almost no humidity, making hotter months more tolerable.”
Get Your Kicks and More in Oklahoma
The Edmond Soccer Club is the largest soccer club in the state of Oklahoma. “We host a lot of regional and state-run organizations and we have a lot of family activities,” said White. “We are safe and affordable.”
The University of Central Oklahoma is an Olympic training site for U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Training site for volleyball, archery and Paralympic sports and host the World Sitting Volleyball Championships with athletes from 26 countries and 30 teams.
The 12th Annual Endeavor Games with more than 450 athletes with physical disabilities from 37 states competed in 11 different sports on campus as well.
“The Games are for athletes with physical disabilities in multi-sport events ranging from small children to veteran athletes competing within their disabilities within their age bracket,” explained White. “We are now working with veteran athletes and conducting Wounded Warrior Camps. They have a mentoring program for the soldier to partner with a child that has the same disability.”
The largest municipal swimming pool in the State of Oklahoma is located in Miami as well as two championship golf courses.
In June, Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College’s Robertson Field hosted 37 football teams representing 41 different schools across the state in the 2011 Oklahoma 8-Man All Star Football Week in Miami.
The BMX State Championships were held in August at Miami BMX. “It’s huge and one of those sports that we will try to expand on,” said Davis.
Arizona from A to Z
The City of Surprise in Arizona developed the 240-acre Surprise Recreation Campus 10 years ago. During spring training, the campus stadium is home to the Texas Rangers and Kansas City Royals. In addition, the campus houses an aquatic center, tennis and racquet complex, youth baseball complex and eight acres of multi-purpose fields.
“The Surprise Recreation Campus has put the city on the map,” said Mark Coronado, Director of Community and Recreation Services with the City of Surprise. “It has many amenities and can accommodate a wide range of sports, including baseball, football, tennis, aquatics and soccer.”
The Surprise Recreation Center hosts the USA Baseball Junior Olympic Trials with 180 teams competing, as well as the National Adult Baseball Association and Men’s Senior Baseball League World Series. In February 2012 the tennis facility will host the USTA Women’s Pro Circuit.
Never overlook Nevada
The Reno Event Center, a 5,000-seat arena, and the Golden Eagle Sports Complex are excellent venues for tournaments.
“Our destination has such a great variety of venues, options for outdoor and indoor sports,” said Leinen, “The complex has artificial turf and it’s a really fabulous. Our baseball and softball teams love it. We have become home to the Reno Aces, Triple-A affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks.”
In October, the Reno-Sparks Livestock Events Center will host the American Cowboys Team Roping Association National Finals Team Rodeo. The U.S. Bowling Congress hosted its 2011 USBC Open Championships at the National Bowling Stadium. With 78 lanes, it is the largest bowling stadium in the country.
“It’s the Taj Mahal of ten-pin,” said Leinen. “It will bring in 800 bowlers a day for three months. That’s 68,000 bowlers this year.”
There are also 18 ski resorts within an hour of Reno-Sparks including Northstar-at-Tahoe, Squaw Valley and Mt. Rose to name a few. The Northstar-at-Tahoe-Resort hosted the 2011 TransWorld TransAm and the Red Bull Butter Cup 2011 in February and March respectively.
But the area isn’t just ideal for winter events, The Reno-Sparks Convention Center hosted the National AAU Qualifier to the AAU West Coast National Championships. The Convention Center transformed itself into a multi-court basketball arena with 52 full-size courts and the ability to host 700 teams over three days in May.
Down in Texas, facilities are plentiful. “Lubbock offers a number of facilities for sporting events of any size,” said Harrison. “From larger facilities of Texas Tech University and Lubbock Christian University to smaller facilities of the City of Lubbock, the area offers a wide variety of option for event planners.”
In Odessa, the Ector County Coliseum stays busy with a full schedule hosting rodeos and horse shows, ice hockey, monster truck and motocross events.
Round Rock, Texas offers 15 sports venues that can host anything from golf to soccer and every sport in between. They recently hosted the Independent Women’s Football League World Championship as well as the 2011 Super Series World Series baseball tournaments with approximately 100 teams competing.
Looking to the Future
Route 66 might be on USA’s original highways, but destinations along this route aren’t looking in their rear-view mirrors.
In Oklahoma, Miami has a 10-acre soccer complex being taken to the next level to attract more tournaments while officials continue grooming their BMX market. Over in Edmond, a new softball complex with 16 fields is scheduled to open in the spring of 2012.
Lubbock’s area football fields have been recently renovated and upgraded and Reno-Sparks has spent $1 billion on the community over the past five years and is re-dedicating its mission to the sports market with their Come See Fly Free program. They will fly meeting planners or a third party meeting planner to come see their destination if there is a viable option; simply complete a request for proposal and the Reno-Spark Convention & Visitors Authority will vet it out.
So whether it’s on Route 66 or anywhere in the Southwest region, jump in your car and get your kicks!