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Go West for Sports Opportunities

25 Sep, 2017

By: Michael Popke
Open Water, Snow and Plenty of Indoor and Outdoor Space Await

This fall, parts of our country took direct hits from hurricanes. One of those areas happened to be a state that is featured in this Regional Focus – Texas. And while it’s true that only parts of the state were affected, the devastation in those areas was profound.

The sports destinations industry has always been resilient, and we have no doubt that while Hurricane Harvey was an unexpected opponent, those areas of Texas are far from beaten. So we urge you to consider those areas – along with others mentioned here – in your search for new facilities.

And let’s face it: the Southwest and Pacific Coast regions of the U.S. have much to offer, including a pleasant mix of seasons and year-round sunshine, with opportunities for just about every competitive sporting event you can imagine — from rowing to rodeo.

Here’s a brief rundown of what’s happening in nine destinations that stretch from central Oklahoma all the way to Honolulu, Hawai'i.

Edmond, Oklahoma
This suburb of Oklahoma City is renowned for golf championships, soccer and softball tournaments, equestrian events and sports for athletes with disabilities. Oak Tree National is a private 18-hole golf course designed by the legendary Pete Dye, and the Edmond Soccer Complex boasts 16 full-size fields. The University of Central Oklahoma, meanwhile, recently upgraded its softball facility with expanded seating for 1,000, plus new turf and new lights to attract larger events.

The university also is an official U.S. Olympic and Paralympic training site, and home of Team USA’s men’s and women’s sitting volleyball teams. It hosts the annual Endeavor Games for athletes with physical challenges. “Sports is a form of rehabilitation to get your mind in the right place,” says Cathy Williams-White, director of the Edmond Convention & Visitors Bureau. “It impacts our community and enriches our citizens.”

Portland, Texas
A city of about 20,000 residents on the Gulf of Mexico, Portland is just a short drive across the bay from Corpus Christi, and it’s ready to play, having broken ground on two new facilities, Municipal Park and the Sports Complex.

The 21-acre Municipal Park includes five baseball fields, which also will be suitable for softball and soccer as well as other field sports. The 38-acre Sports Complex has four softball fields that are also suitable for baseball, soccer and other field sports. Both venues will have multiple amenities for guests, including picnic shelters, grills, concessions, rest rooms and more.

“We want people to Play Portland because we have so much to offer,” says Mona Gandy, the director of marketing and communications for the City of Portland, “and this is a wonderful place to be.”

Round Rock, Texas
The opportunities in this destination near Austin, Texas, increased significantly when the Round Rock Multipurpose Complex opened earlier this year. It’s a 60-acre, $27 million addition to Old Settlers Park, a sprawling 645-acre site that features spaces dedicated to disc golf, soccer, football, tennis, sand volleyball, plus cross-country courses. The Champion Fields portion of the park includes multiple baseball and softball fields, batting cages and a large shaded spectator space. A soccer field expansion is scheduled for completion in 2018.

“The Round Rock Multipurpose Complex has been such a big hit that we have tournaments booked out into next year,” says Nancy Yawn, director of the Round Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Meanwhile, the Round Rock Sports Center boasts 82,800 square feet of indoor space, with more than half of it flexible for basketball, volleyball, badminton or pickleball.

Midland, Texas
Midland, located in west Texas, is home of the Bush Tennis Center, an epic facility that opened in 2016 and offers 19 lighted courts, including a stadium court. A second phase will add stadium seating, and the facility eventually will be the second-largest tennis center in the world, with more than 60 courts (including indoor clay courts). The center already has hosted multiple tournaments. 

“The Bush family is a true advocate of the tennis industry,” says Stephanie Martin, director of VisitMidland, referring to the 41st and 43rd presidents of the United States, who lived in Midland from 1951 to 1955. “George W. played tennis all the time.”

Also in 2016, the city opened the FMH Foundation Natatorium, which boasts a 50-meter pool, a 25-yard pool, a diving facility and a large courtyard for swimmers and their teams.

Bullhead City, Arizona
For the past five years, the sister cities of Bullhead City, Arizona, and Laughlin, Nevada, located about six miles apart, have collectively become a joint sports destination. Participants play in Arizona and stay in Nevada (for as little as $19 per night). Bullhead City offers its fair share of hotel rooms, too. “We’re a stone’s throw away from each other, if you’ve got a good arm,” says Toby Cotter, Bullhead City’s city manager.

With three multi-field softball facilities, Bullhead City welcomes several softball tournaments, including the Mojave Tournament of Champions, co-hosted with the local school district. The team that wins is “pretty much guaranteed to be ranked No. 1 by MaxPreps and USA TODAY,” Cotter says.

The recent addition of four pickleball courts helped lead to the formation of the 13-event Bullhead City/Laughlin Senior Games, which Cotter thinks has the potential to become one of the largest such events in the country. A new $35 million indoor stadium is expected to open in late 2018 or early 2019, too.

Wenatchee Valley, Washington
“This area truly has all four seasons,” Patrick Norlin, sports tourism and outdoor recreation coordinator for Wenatchee Valley Sports, says of the chain of cities located in north-central region of Washington on either side of the Columbia River. “There are times you can be snowboarding or skiing in the morning and then play a round of golf in the afternoon.”

Indeed, the Wenatchee Valley offers a winter wonderland of opportunities, anchored by Mission Ridge Ski & Board Resort, and the Toyota Town Center is a 4,300-seat multi-purpose arena that accommodates hockey, figure skating and curling.

When temperatures warm up, multiple facilities around the valley host the Triple Crown Youth Baseball Season Opening Tournament, with more than 120 teams participating. The area also welcomes the National Softball Association’s Girls Fast Pitch World Series.

Redmond, Oregon
With a slogan of “We really can do it all,” the Deschutes County Fair and Expo Center in Redmond, Oregon, offers buildings for wrestling and basketball tournaments, BMX championships, rodeo and equestrian events and more. The 132-acre site is home to Oregon’s largest annual county fair and features nearly 200,000 square feet of flexible indoor space, a 95,000-square-foot barn complex, three arenas and more than 75 acres of lawns. Facility officials also are in the process of conducting a feasibility study to expand with a 140-acre indoor/outdoor sports complex.

“We’ve done almost everything here with the exception of putting ice in the arena,” says Roxia Todoroff, director of sales for the center — but even that is a possibility, she adds. “We see a really big return on investment with sporting events.”

An RV park with 106 sites and parking for 8,000 motor homes encourages extended-stay events, and planned upgrades for 2018 include new outdoor lighting and surfaces in some of the complex’s buildings.

Redding, California
Located in the heart of Northern California, Redding is an outdoor recreation hub. In fact, it’s the second-sunniest city in the United States, with 300 days of sunshine annually.

Highlights include the 22-acre Redding Soccer Park with four lighted synthetic turf fields, elevated spectator seating and misting stations, and the 30-acre Big League Dreams Sports Park offers scaled-down replicas of Fenway Park, Yankee Stadium and Wrigley Field suitable for baseball or softball. The park also includes stadium seating, batting cages, sand volleyball courts and a 20,000-square-foot field house.

Fishing is already big and local sports tourism officials hope to bring rowing, stand-up paddleboarding and other events to the area. “We’re not at capacity yet,” says Sabrina Charlson, sports commissioner for the Redding Convention and Visitors Bureau. “There’s always room for other tournaments.”

Honolulu, Hawai'i
The 19-year-old Hawai'i Convention Center in Honolulu entered the sports event business last year by investing $1.1 million in portable flooring, and basketball and volleyball standards. Since then, the 200,000-square-foot exhibit space has attracted youth volleyball tournaments and an AAU basketball tournament. AEG Facilities took over management of the convention center in 2014 and encouraged the new direction.

“We were always looking for ways to generate more business and use the facility in a nonconventional way,” says Teri Orton, general manager of the facility, adding that the center also can host soccer, wrestling, cheer and gymnastics events. “People have wanted to bring tournaments to Hawaii for a long time, but the cost to ship equipment was too prohibitive. Now, I feel like we’ve really alleviated the number one challenge of coming here. I had no idea this whole venture was going to hit the ground running the way it has.”   SDM

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