Up and Down the Coast
31 May, 2018By: Michael Popke
These Cities Offer Dynamic Opportunities to host a Variety of Sporting Events
Ask people to define the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States, and you’ll likely receive different responses. Generally speaking, though, it runs along the Atlantic Coast and spans New England to the South Atlantic states.
This much also is certain: Plenty of opportunities exist for sports event planners. What follows are destination highlights in Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia.
Since the formation of Maryland’s Sports Commission in 2008, the number of events the state hosts has increased annually. In 2017, Maryland welcomed almost 325 events for an economic impact of approximately $600 million, according to Terry Hasseltine, the commission’s executive director.
“What makes us appealing is that we are extremely accessible,” he says.
In March, the Baltimore Women’s Sabre World Cup brought in 170 competitors, and Prince George’s Sports and Learning Complex hosted the USATF Masters Indoor Track and Field Championships. The Preakness Stakes, of course, is always scheduled for May at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore. This year, the Youth Baseball Nationals are taking place at Salisbury’s Henry S. Parker Athletic Complex in late June and early July, with the Under Armour All-America Lacrosse Games at Johns Hopkins University’s Homewood Field in June and USA Cycling’s 2018 Amateur Road National Championships in Hagerstown in July.
Much of Maryland’s rich U.S. history revolves around Annapolis, the state’s capital city. Prestigious sporting events in Annapolis date back to pre-Revolutionary War times, as the Maryland Jockey Club held one of the first documented sporting events in Annapolis every November from 1769 to 1775. Notable club members were George Washington, Andrew Jackson and Maryland Declaration of Independence signers William Paca and Charles Carroll. Anne Arundel County, where Annapolis is located, boasts 38,000-seat Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, Chesapeake BMX Arena, 17 turf fields and more than 100 multi-use fields and parks.
“We offer such a diversified environment for planners,” says Frank DiVenti, director of marketing for Visit Annapolis & Anne Arundel County.
The big news in Virginia this year is the anticipated September opening in Springfield of The St. James — a 450,000-square-foot sports, wellness and active entertainment facility that will include an indoor FIFA-size turf field that also can accommodate modular flooring for court sports, two NHL-size ice rinks, four NBA-size basketball courts, a 50-meter swimming pool and eight international-size squash courts.
Fairfax County, where Springfield is located, also is home to several other first-class sports facilities — including 5,000-seat George Mason University Stadium for track and field, soccer and lacrosse and GMU’s 10,000-seat EagleBank Arena for basketball.
Additionally, a new baseball facility with six diamonds, also in Fairfax, should be ready for action in 2021, according Eric Kulczycky, national sales manager for Visit Fairfax. The county also offers more than 90 turf fields for year-round play.
About five hours southwest of Springfield, Martinsville, Virginia, also provides plenty of facility options, including the Smith River Sports Complex – more than 90 acres that can accommodate field hockey, football, ultimate disc, lacrosse, soccer and more; 60 additional acres remain undeveloped. Several collegiate, national and international organizations have held events at the complex. “Just about anything you can think of doing outdoors, we can make it happen,” says Houston Stutz, the facility’s director of operations and marketing.
Hooker Field, meanwhile, is the 3,200-seat home to a collegiate baseball team and welcomes tournaments, while the Martinsville Race Track hosts NASCAR-sanctioned weekends and is known as both the shortest (.526 miles) and oldest (71 years) on the circuit.
The biggest sporting events in northern West Virginia often are soccer tournaments. Leading the list of high-profile events is the 2018 US Youth Soccer Eastern Presidents Cup, which takes place June 15-18 at the Barboursville (West Virginia) Soccer Complex and will feature boys’ and girls’ teams competing for a spot at the 2018 US Youth Soccer National Presidents Cup in July in Westfield, Indiana.
Barboursville Park spans 750 acres and boasts 14 soccer fields and three baseball fields, among other amenities. And Ritter Park provides 10 lighted tennis courts (as well as indoor courts).
Additionally, Marshall University and the Cabell-Huntington Convention & Visitors Bureau have a strong relationship, according to Anna Adkins, sales manager for the CVB. Together, they work to bring more attention to the state.
“Sometimes, I don’t think people realize that West Virginia isn’t really western Virginia,” Adkins laughs. “But when people find out what we have to offer and how affordable we are, they become interested. Our biggest hurdle is getting people here. Once they’re here, they’re always surprised.”
People don’t seem to have trouble knowing where Atlantic City, New Jersey, is located. Sports are on the upswing there, according to Dan Gallagher, sports account director for the Atlantic City Sports Commission. And with the expected reopening this summer of both the Ocean Resort Casino and the Trump Taj Mahal (rebranded as the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City), another 3,300 hotel rooms are expected to be available soon.
“I don’t think any other city has that happening within the same couple months,” Gallagher says.
Much of Atlantic City’s sports activity happens at or around Boardwalk Hall, located on the Atlantic City Boardwalk. Both are among the oldest of their kind in the country. Atlantic City has hosted the IRONMAN 70.3, Pro Watercross events and Ultimate Fighting Championship bouts. And earlier this year, the Atlantic City Convention Center hosted 340 teams in the 2018 U.S. Futsal Northeast Regional Championship — the first event in a four-year deal.
Located about 600 miles due north of Atlantic City, Rochester, New York, is known as the “Gateway to the Finger Lakes” — a region of western New York named for a series of long, thin lakes — and is about a 90-minute drive from Niagara Falls.
That’s enough to attract sports tourism opportunities, but Rochester also delivers with a variety of facilities.
Frontier Field is the 10,840-seat home to the Rochester Red Wings (the Class AAA affiliate of the Minnesota Twins) and also hosts other events, including outdoor hockey and the Nitro Circus action sports extravaganza. The Blue Cross Arena, meanwhile, holds 14,000 fans and can accommodate basketball, lacrosse and hockey, and Total Sports Experience boasts 115,000 square feet of turf space with three fields for soccer, lacrosse, football and field hockey, plus 14 outdoor multi-purpose grass fields.
On top of all that, Rochester has a long history with famous golf course designers; as a result, the city offers several PGA-worthy golf courses. “We’re known for being a cold-weather place, but we also have a strong golf scene,” says Libby Craig, sports sales manager for the Rochester NY Sports Commission. “People are always surprised when they find that out.”
Two years into a five-year plan for bolstering the sporting appeal of Hershey and Harrisburg — two Pennsylvania destinations located approximately 20 minutes apart — the Hershey Harrisburg Sports & Events Authority is off to a solid start.
The Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex & Expo Center in Harrisburg boasts one million square feet of space and can accommodate up to 30 volleyball courts. The annual Keystone Regional Volleyball Association’s 2018 Boys’ Atlantic Northeastern Bid Tournament draws more than 200 teams and 2,000 players.
In August, a new long-distance Fondo-style cycling event will come to Harrisburg, one of six cities to host Fondo Cycling Circuit USA in 2018, and the Big 26 Baseball Classic for high school juniors and seniors will make its Harrisburg debut in July.
Meanwhile, the 10,500-seat Giant Center and the synthetic-turf Hersheypark® Stadium, both in Hershey, offer more event-hosting opportunities.
“It’s a cool time for us right now,” says Allison Rohrbaugh, the authority’s marketing and communications manager. “We have big-city amenities without the big-city budget and big-city headaches.” SDM