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The New Frontiers Are Here

28 Dec, 2015

By: Mary Helen Sprecher

Everyone remembers the beginning of the old Star Trek series, in which space was described as “the final frontier.” But for sports event planners, the exploration of new frontiers is closer to earth – and in some cases, closer to home.  

In the following article, we’re highlighting some of the great new and expanding markets in sports event planning. They represent venues across a range of geographic areas and are ready to host a number of sports. Best of all, they’re staffed with knowledgeable personnel just waiting for your call. Happy exploring in 2016!

Fayetteville, Arkansas

Find unbeatable hospitality in Fayetteville, Arkansas. Fayetteville has a winning strategy for hosting sporting events: Offering more than just world-class facilities; amenities include team-friendly, budget-conscious hotels and small-town charm with big-city attractions. These are just a few of the reasons Fayetteville earned the title of No. 1 Sports City in Arkansas from Sports Illustrated.

The University of Arkansas’ SEC-caliber facilities have state­of-the-­art fields and locker rooms and can accommodate track and field, soccer, softball, field hockey, lacrosse, racquetball, squash, swimming and volleyball.

For moderate-size tournaments, the Fayetteville High School football field seats 4,000 people. Walker Park offers eight baseball fields and the P. Whitaker Sports Center has five basketball and six volleyball courts. Celebrate the big win at one of more than 300 restaurants, many of which offer banquet rooms and group reservations.

Fayetteville’s 2,300 hotel rooms provide plenty of options and price points, and transportation around town is easy and hassle-free. Visitors might find extra time to exercise their creativity at the nearby Scott Family Amazeum or the world-renowned Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. An insider tip: take advantage of the Razorback Greenway trail – 36 miles of walking, running and biking trails.

For a full list of sports facilities, visit experiencefayetteville.com.

Washington County, Florida

Washington County’s sports market is beginning to thrive with partnerships between the facilities, city and tourist development council to increase tournament play within the county. Pals Park is home to eight baseball/softball fields, several bathroom facilities, concessions and ample parking. Field sizes are two 275-foot fields, one 250-foot field, three 190-foot fields and two 200-foot fields.  There are areas with playground equipment to entertain kids not participating in ball games.

The Park spans approximately 52 acres. Over the years, the Park has hosted several baseball and softball district tournaments and one softball state tournament. In 2016, there will be updates to the facility including updated playground equipment, new backstops on all fields and updates to the bathroom and concession buildings.

Washington County was also the host of the 2014 Dixie Pre-Majors World Series held at the baseball facility at Chipley High School. This event was a joint effort of the Washington County TDC and the Chipley Dixie Majors, Inc. This event generated $359,775 in economic impact to the county. It was awarded a 2015 “Champion of Economic Impact in Sports Tourism Award.” The Chipley High School facility was also home to five Dixie state baseball tournaments.

Peoria, Illinois

Sports play in Peoria, Illinois. Peoria is a quickly growing into a youth sports Mecca in the Midwest. Their newest complex, The Louisville Slugger Sports Complex, will be one of the country’s major youth sporting facilities. The complex will feature 13 synthetic turf fields for baseball, softball and soccer, as well as a 125,000-square-foot dome for indoor sports.  Teams and fans will get to experience the feeling of a professional sporting event with Major League-style dugouts, elevated press boxes and electronic scoreboards on all fields. The complex will also have an interactive museum for people of all ages.

Peoria is home to many facilities that are ready to host a sporting event. From cheer and dance at the Peoria Civic Center, soccer at the Mossville Soccer Complex to cross country, golf and disc golf at many of its scenic locations, Peoria can host it all.

It isn’t just prime facilities that make Peoria a major draw for sporting events; it’s also an experience for families. There are endless numbers of attractions, dining opportunities and events that will make an event memorable for all who attend.  Peoria is a sports destination for athletes, but it is also a vacation destination for their families.   

Hamilton County, Indiana

Just north of Indianapolis, Hamilton County, Indiana, is becoming a premier destination for sporting events.

Championship Level Facilities

Grand Park sits on 400 acres of land in Westfield, Indiana, and offers 31 multi-purpose fields. Also on the list are Billericay Park, Roundtripper Academy and Best Choice Fieldhouse in Fishers.

New Construction

Jonathan Byrd’s Fieldhouse at Grand Park and the Indoor Sports Arena at Grand Park are both set to open in 2016 on the campus of Grand Park. The Fieldhouse is an 87,000-square-foot facility that will feature eight indoor basketball courts and state-of-the-art features, and the Indoor Sports Arena is a 335,000-square-foot facility that will house three full-size multi-purpose fields. With the addition of these two indoor facilities, Grand Park will most certainly be a top destination for year-round competition.

Hamilton County Sports Authority

Offering an unmatched mix of consulting and support services, HCSA serves as a resource for organizations seeking guidance in formulating bid plans or managing events. HCSA offers grants, web support to promote events hosted at Hamilton County facilities, and distributes news releases.

Sports event planners can start planning their next sporting event with the help of the Hamilton County Sports Authority’s expert staff at HamiltonCountySports.com.

Lake Erie Shores & Islands, Ohio

Planners know Lake Erie and numerous rivers provide a refreshing natural venue for water-based sports. The area can host land-based events including walking, running and cycling events along picturesque backroads and scenic shorefronts.  Gymnastics, dance and bowling competitions are welcomed year-round, with indoor venues able to handle most groups. Or make the most of both the land and lake, and find the ideal location for triathlons right on Lake Erie. In addition, athletes can bring family and friends to cheer them on while playing in the Lake Erie Shores & Islands. 

“The Cedar Point Run & Ride Race weekend was voted best post-race party by Runner’s World Magazine in 2015. Rev3 Adventure was able to create a full package weekend for guest with the support and promotion of a great partnership with Lake Erie Shores & Island for their weekend of events,” notes Mike Spiller, director of operations, Rev3 Adventure.

Less than an hour’s drive from both Cleveland and Toledo, the area is easily accessible via the Ohio Turnpike and other major state routes. There are numerous entertainment options, including Cedar Point, the Lake Erie islands and four indoor waterpark resorts. The group sales manager, Amanda Smith Rasnick, CMP, can help plan any event in the Lake Erie Shores& Islands. Amanda@shoresandislands.com, Groups.SHORESandISLANDS.com.

Morgan Hill, California

Once limited to local soccer use, in recent years the Morgan Hill Outdoor Sports Center (OSC) has become a multi-sport, international facility. Since assuming control in 2010, the Morgan Hill Youth Sports Alliance (MHYSA) has hosted over 150 tournaments and events there. “While once thought of as 11 soccer fields, what we really have here is 38 acres that can be formatted for any field sport or event,” observed OSC GM Dave Payne.

That flexibility has been proven by users that include US Lacrosse, USA Ultimate Frisbee, USYS Region IV, Pop Warner football and most recently, the United States Dog Agility Association (USDAA) CynoSport World Championship. “Our competitors loved the facility, the weather, the location and town. For us, the support we received from the facility staff and local providers was outstanding,” says USDAA Vice President Andy Hartman.

Morgan Hill, located just south of San Jose is an unlikely setting for a sports and recreation Mecca with its small-town charm, quaint downtown and rural feel, but that is exactly what the town is becoming. “Come see one of the best-kept secrets in the west,” invites MHYSA President Jeff Dixon.

Sarasota, Florida

Located on Southwest Florida’s Gulf Coast, Sarasota County tops the class in competitive play. Area facilities range from a world-class aquatics and rowing facility to a Major League spring training stadium. With lawn bowling greens, equestrian venues and a newly renovated state-of-the-art swimming and aquatic center, Sarasota County has the amenities to offer the very best competitive sporting opportunities for participants and spectators.

Over the next few years, Sarasota County will play host to high-profile sporting events in swimming, soccer, pentathlon and rowing. In addition, Sarasota County will welcome the world for the 2017 World Rowing Championships, alongside neighboring Bradenton.

Along with being Sarasota County’s top tourist attractions, Siesta Key, Lido Key, Longboat Key and Venice beaches are some of the area’s most popular sports facilities. They offer ideal locations for beach volleyball with space for 40 courts at Siesta Key Beach alone and are excellent spots for triathlons and other races.

Providing easy access from the interstate and the Sarasota Bradenton International Airport and with proximity to charming arts and culture, top-rated beaches, shopping and delectable dining, Sarasota County offers much to do away from the event.

For more information, please visit www.PlaySarasota.org.

Alpharetta, Georgia

Triathlons are a fast-growing sport and much of that can be contributed to the increase in youth participation. Alpharetta, Georgia, is home to one of the largest kids’ triathlons in the country, IRONKIDS Alpharetta, where athletes ages 6-15 from across the region come to compete in this multi-sport event.

Alpharetta has hosted IRONKIDS for the past five years and has seen firsthand the growth and enthusiasm for the sport. The city is the perfect site for an event where safety is paramount: young athletes swim in a pool, bike on closed roads and run on paved walkways and grass through a park. And there is no shortage of enthusiasm and support for all athletes.

Each triathlon has three components: swim, bike and run, so in many respects, it is just another chance for kids to do what comes naturally. Race distances vary with age and are designed to be challenging yet possible with a minimum of preparation. IRONKIDS puts the emphasis on fitness, safety and fun, encouraging youth through sport and competition to lead healthy lifestyles. They are focused on creating positive and encouraging atmospheres for athletes, families and communities, while also promoting achievement, determination and self-confidence.

Visit www.awesomealpharetta.com for details.

Bloomington-Normal, Illinois

The Bloomington-Normal area offers a key location, first-class facilities, Midwest hospitality and an experienced sports commission.  Located at the junction of three interstates, Bloomington-Normal is centrally located in the heart of Illinois between Chicago and St. Louis.  A regional airport and Amtrak station make traveling there convenient.  With state-of-the-art, adaptable facilities, over 3,000 hotel rooms, and over 200 dining options, they’ve got it all for year-round events. 

Some of the facilities Bloomington-Normal offers include:

  • The U.S. Cellular Coliseum, a first-class community entertainment center with more than 180,000 square feet of space and seating for 8,000.

  • Champion Fields, which boasts 10 lighted softball fields and seating for 2,300.

  • The Corn Crib, a state-of-the-art, multi-purpose stadium with a capacity of 7,000. 

  • Redbird Arena on the campus of Illinois State University has close-to-the-court seating and capacity of 10,200.

  • Illinois Wesleyan University’s Shirk Center, a multi-purpose athletic and recreation complex with seating for 2,400.

  • The Den at Fox Creek, an Arnold Palmer signature-designed golf course. 

  • Over 200 dining options.

The Bloomington-Normal Area Convention and Visitors Bureau and Sports Commission are ready to assist planners from site selection through post-event follow-up to ensure the event’s success.  Planners who host an event there will see that Bloomington-Normal is serious about sports.

Fayetteville, North Carolina

There are few communities in the world that can compete with the military history and tradition of Fayetteville, Cumberland County. Whether looking for a full-scale weekend tournament or a mid-size summer camp, Fort Bragg Communities has everything planners need. From soccer to basketball, skeet shooting to fishing, racquetball to wrestling, its excellent facilities and highly trained staff stand ready to serve, along with an entire region steeped in patriotism and a love of country. 

The Fort Bragg Communities Visitors Bureau offers a full-service support team to help tournament directors and sports event planners pull off the perfect event, no matter what the sport. In addition, its new mobile tools and online resources give out-of-town guests and event participants access to a variety of new tools and resources to help them make the most of the wide range of community assets and attractions during their time there. 

Findlay-Hancock, Ohio

What’s happening in Findlay? What ISN’T happening! With new fields, as well as the recent additions of a performing arts center, children’s museum, newly built and renovated hotels and countless shops and restaurants, Findlay, Ohio, is growing by leaps and bounds.

Home to award-winning baseball, softball and soccer fields, as well as an ice rink and outdoor competitive swimming facilities, this destination has something for everyone. With a strong local athletic presence, as well as a proven record of hosting events on a regional and national scale, its staff can accommodate the unique needs of any event.

Conveniently located along I-75, and within 90 miles of four major airports, Findlay knows how to welcome visiting teams. Its big city amenities and hometown atmosphere, combined with affordable rates, lovely hotels, one-of-a-kind shopping and dining, and family-friendly activities are sure to make all tournament experiences top-notch.

For more information, contact the Hancock County Convention & Visitors Bureau at 1-800-424-3315, and learn more about Findlay, Ohio, at VisitFindlay.com.

Erie, Pennsylvania

Situated on the shores of Lake Erie in the northwestern corner of Pennsylvania, Erie provides its visitors with both a stunning natural backdrop and an urban setting for sports of all kinds. The region has become a prime destination for sports, attracting events from across the country to its shores.  Erie is known for its waterfront, but it’s so much more.

Erie boasts venues that are accommodating for many types of events, both indoor and outdoor. Presque Isle State Park is an Erie landmark – a natural, 3,200-acre forested peninsula that features seven miles of beautiful beaches and hosts more than 90 sports events each year, including running, swimming, boating, fishing, beach soccer and volleyball.  The Erie Insurance Arena was renovated in 2013, and can seat up to 6,700 for ice hockey, and 6,900 for basketball. The Bayfront Convention Center showcases stunning views of Presque Isle Bay and offers more than 100,000 square feet of space, an adjoining 200-room hotel, and a second 191-room hotel set to open this year.

With these state-of-the-art venues, more than 4,000 hotel rooms and the support of the Erie Sports Commission, Erie is an ideal destination for sports of any kind.

Easley, South Carolina

Easley, South Carolina, loves sports, and hosting the Big League World Series (as seen on ESPN) for the past 14 years is just one testament to the passion the city has.

Easley’s 140-acre complex offers eight baseball and six soccer, lacrosse and football fields.  Also on site is a 50,000 square-foot gymnasium that has hosted basketball, volleyball, gymnastics, dance, cheerleading, fencing and trade shows. The complex along with Easley’s four county high schools (all opened in 2012), allow the city to host almost any size sporting event imaginable.

Easley, South Carolina, is located just 10 minutes off Interstate 85 with Charlotte to the north and  Atlanta to the south. GSP International Airport is approximately 30 minutes away.

Easley boasts over 100 dining destinations within 10 minutes of its sports complex and plenty of hotel rooms within a short drive from all venues.

For those who still feel the need to venture out, downtown Greenville, South Carolina, is just 10 minutes away and Clemson University is only 20 minutes away.

For more information on the sports facilities, the city, and what is has to offer, please visit SportsEasley.com.

Extraco Events Center, Texas

The Extraco Events Center, home of the Heart of Texas Fair & Rodeo, is the center of entertainment in Central Texas. Its mission is to produce events for education, entertainment and agricultural experiences at the premier multi-use facility while giving back through youth scholarships and having a positive economic impact to Central Texas. 

In the early 1950s, McLennan County voters elected to put $1.2 million toward a new entertainment and agricultural venue, culminating in the construction of the iconic Coliseum and surrounding grounds in 1953. From 2000 to 2005, all the facilities and grounds underwent renovations and/or reconstruction.

Today, the Events Center has grown to cover 50 acres of land containing modernized facilities, 700 stalls, 250 RV hook-ups and parking areas able to accommodate over 3800 vehicles. Its facilities consist of the Coliseum, Back Porch Club, Show Pavilion, General Exhibits Building, Creative Arts Building and Stall Barn.  The premier facilities host over 225 events with an attendance of 420,000 and a $47 million economic impact annually. 

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