The Southeast: A Sports Mecca
30 Jun, 2014By: Michael Seale
The southeast is a haven for sports, with warm weather conducive to outdoor activity almost year-round. But even in this region where college football reigns, a vast selection of sports and activities also have made this their go-to destination, from baseball to softball, swimming to golf, tennis to fishing and even ice hockey.
Huntsville, located along Interstate 65 in Alabama, is one of the fastest-growing cities in the state, and offers its share of sports opportunities. The SportsPlex has portable mounds and varied base distances, along with portable fencing if needed. The complex also includes a warm-up plaza, two family-size pavilions, playground and batting cages. Fields can be arranged to accommodate adult or youth games.
The Fern Bell Recreation Center is one of the city’s largest recreation centers. Its layout consists of two regulation high school basketball courts, a fitness room, an activities room and a demonstration kitchen. Fern Bell Park hosts several USSSA baseball events.
This southeastern destination also has ice facilities. The Ice Complex has two regulation NHL rinks that can host hockey tournaments and figure skating competitions. In addition, the arena is home ice for the Huntsville Havoc of the Southern Professional Hockey League and the UAH Chargers.
"Because we have UAH and the Havoc here, we have excellent facilities for hockey,” said Charles Winters of the Huntsville/Madison County Convention & Visitors Bureau, “and we can accommodate a variety of ice sports events."
The Natatorium is Huntsville’s indoor/outdoor public swimming facility with a retractable roof to warm the pool. It is home to five high school swim teams and hosts various swimming meets and national tournaments. In addition to the ‘Nat,’ as the facility is locally known, Huntsville has added a new complex, the Dr. Richard Showers, Sr. Pool.
Huntsville Tennis Center hosts various USTA National Tennis tournaments each year and offers a clubhouse and pro shop overlooking the 24 tennis courts.
Milton Frank Stadium is an eight-lane track & field facility with long jump, high jump and pole vault areas. It also hosts football and soccer for Huntsville City Schools.
Mobile’s warm climate enables the city to host multiple outdoor activities. “The main attraction of Mobile is our location,” said Danny Corte of the Mobile Sports Authority. “We can host an outdoor event here 365 days a year.”
One of the most-visited sports facilities in Mobile is the Copeland-Cox Tennis Center, with 60 hard courts, making it the largest public tennis complex in the world. “We host between 30 and 40 tennis tournaments every year,” Corte said.
Mobile is also home to the Arthur Outlaw Convention Center, a 317,000-square-foot facility that hosts gymnastics competitions, USA Weightlifting events and cheer competitions, and was home to the 2011 Olympic boxing trials for the 2012 Summer Olympics.
The city has the additional distinction of being able to offer both freshwater and saltwater fishing.
Pasco County, Florida
Located on the Gulf of Mexico in the Tampa Bay area, Pasco County offers more than 100 square miles of managed recreational facilities, including parks, four artificial reefs (trivia point: one of these is made up of surplus military tanks), more than 25 golf courses, and three state-designated canoe trails.
Roni Lloyd, sports marketing coordinator with the Pasco County Office of Tourism said the area has plans for some sports facilities upgrades. “On the horizon is up to 40 sand volleyball courts at SunWest Harbourtowne in Northwest Pasco County,” she said.
In addition, the Wesley Chapel District Park offers athletic fields for adult and youth baseball as well as soccer. Lacrosse is also hosted there.
Sarasota is a preferred destination for sports enthusiasts from all over the world. In the spring, when the Baltimore Orioles come to train, Ed Smith Stadium plays host to thousands of baseball fans. Golf also has a strong following.
“Outdoor sports are mostly what we hang our hat on,” said Nicole Rissler of the Sarasota County Sports Commission. “We host a lot of baseball. With Ed Smith Stadium, we have the means to host a variety of baseball events.”
The city also offers a wide variety of water sports, from deep sea fishing in the Gulf of Mexico, to kayaking or boating.
“We will host the 2017 World Rowing Championships,” Rissler said. “This event has not been held in the US since the 80s.”
In addition to rowing, baseball, soccer and other outdoor sports commonly popular in the region, Sarasota has the unique distinction of being a BMX attraction. “We have the largest BMX track in the country,” Rissler noted.
Dalton, Georgia, is located on I-75, 25 miles south of Chattanooga and 80 miles north of Atlanta. It has become a hub for softball.
“Heritage Point Park, which has 10 fields, is booked almost every weekend of the year,” said Brett Huske, director of tourism at the Dalton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau. “The Softball Players Association holds a 50-team tournament here in July, and we’ll host three other 50-team tournaments in September alone.”
Lakeshore Field, home of the Dalton State Roadrunners, can host soccer, football and track & field events.
The Northwest Georgia Trade and Convention Center plays host to Dalton State College basketball games and is the home turf of the Georgia Rampage arena football team.
“We hope to get more gymnastics meets, cheer competitions, martial arts events and more,” Huske said. “We are looking to branch out.”
Elizabethtown Sports Park spans 150 acres and is one of the largest youth sports event venues in the country. With 12 ball diamonds, 12 multi-sport fields (two synthetic), an ADA-accessible baseball complex and state of art design, this park offers a big-time experience for young athletes.
“Players will feel like big leaguers when they leave their covered brick dugout and take the field,” said Janna Clark of the Elizabethtown Tourism and Convention Bureau. “Each of our 12 diamonds has a warning track to protect your outfielders, bullpens where relief pitchers can safely warm up, wireless scoreboards and shaded seating. Our championship diamonds include stadium seating.”
Ascension Parish, Louisana
Ascension Parish lies between Baton Rouge and New Orleans and covers approximately 300 square miles that span the Mississippi River. Twenty percent lies on the historic west bank, encompassing Donaldsonville, Bayou Lafourche, and Louisiana Highway 1, sometimes called “the longest main street.”
“Lamar Dixon Expo Center is a large multi-purpose facility that hosts a variety of events from equestrian to monster truck shows,” said Tracey Browning of Tour Ascension. “They have a gym, chapel, air-conditioned indoor facility and an arena.”
Baseball and softball are extremely popular in Ascension Parish, as well as tennis, Browning said. “The city of Gonzales and Ascension Parish has plenty of ball parks, spray parks, tennis courts, and swimming.” Gonzales has also hosted the World Series for Dixie Youth Baseball.
Mooresville, North Carolina
Mooresville is commonly known as Race City, USA, because it is home to Dale Earnhardt Inc., Cagnazzi Racing, Kyle Busch Racing and more. Beyond that, however, Mooresville has a large number of sports facilities and attractions.
Mazeppa Road Park is the city’s new sports complex for soccer, softball and baseball, featuring six full-size soccer fields, two turf fields and four grass fields, all with lights, concessions, restrooms and parking spaces. It also features one regulation baseball field, three softball fields (each with a 300-foot-long fence and an available temporary fence for 200-foot and 250-foot fields).
Presbyterian Road Park offers three baseball/softball fields, two fields with 200-foot fences, and one field with a 300-foot fence. Various pitching and base distance options are available. The park’s facilities include lighting, concessions and restrooms.
"The city’s indoor facilities include the Talbert Recreation Center, which is a 26,000-square-foot facility with two full size basketball courts. It can host basketball, wrestling, gymnastics, volleyball and martial arts events," said Courtney Wolfram of the Mooresville Visitor and Convention Bureau. "There is also the Fieldhouse , a?22,000-square-foot multipurpose indoor athletic facility that specializes in private and team training, with a 40' x 80' indoor lighted field set up to host youth and adult sports such as soccer, lacrosse, football and baseball."