Small Town, Big Sports: Conway, Arkansas
29 Apr, 2015By: Juli Anne Patty
Those who choose to base their sports events in Conway, Arkansas, enjoy a number of advantages, such as a small town atmosphere with big-town facilities and amenities. But they also benefit from this town’s recent growth.
“We’re the 72nd fastest-growing county in the country, and that means every time you come to Conway, we’ve got something new to offer,” says Rachel Earls Shaw, director of destination marketing, Conway Convention & Visitors Bureau.
Fortunately, Conway has been at the top of Arkansas’ fastest-growing lists for several years now, and they have figured out how to grow gracefully. Around seven years ago, a natural gas boom created an immediate demand for hotel rooms in the area. Now the boom is over, and sports event planners and their participants continue to benefit from the community’s huge inventory of hotel rooms in every budget.
The city’s exciting offerings will continue to grow over the next few years. Next year, athletes and spectators visiting Conway will have even more options for shopping and entertainment between competitions. Conway is getting a new huge retail center with a mall anchored by Dillard’s, a department store that is a homegrown favorite with headquarters in Little Rock. Across from the mall, sports event organizers and participants will find any last-minute event needs at another new retail space, which will include Academy Sports and Sam’s Club, among other merchants.
The City of Colleges Delivers
Conway is home to three higher learning institutions, the University of Central Arkansas, Central Baptist College and Hendrix College, which not only bestow a greater number of championship-level sports facilities in the area, but also make Conway particularly well prepared to accommodate the sudden influx of tournaments of any size.
“Thanks to the colleges, and the number of students who stick around to live here after they graduate, Conway has a strong focus on both youth and recreation,” says Shaw. “We are lucky to offer all of the facilities at our three colleges, as well as those maintained by our excellent Parks and Recreation Department.”
Put a young, energetic population and a wealth of outstanding facilities together, and you have the recipe for successful sports events. Conway accommodates thousands of participants and spectators annually for a variety of sports, with baseball, softball, soccer, volleyball, basketball, cheer, dance and gymnastics topping the list. But these events don’t just happen in Conway and then leave. They become part of the community.
“Our population has almost doubled in recent years, but Conway always keeps its small-town feeling,” says Shaw. “Our community gets excited to see sports events come to town. Hotels and restaurants treats participants like stars, and people come out to cheer and volunteer. Sports are just a big part of our community.”
The Place to Play
Conway’s retail and dining offerings are growing every day, expanding to meet its growing population and guests. Add to that the area’s 1,200 hotel rooms, many of which are only seven years old, and it’s easy to see that whatever a sports event might need, it’s never far from reach in Conway.
When guests aren’t competing, eating, shopping or sleeping, Conway still has more to offer. Those seeking a cultural experience will be delighted to discover that in addition to more-than-ample sports facilities and hotels rooms, Conway also has more than a small town’s share of museums, theaters and galleries. There are plentiful outdoor adventures, too, from fishing and boating to swimming and other water sports, as well as hiking trails and picnic and camping areas throughout the area.
Located just off Interstate 40, Conway and all of its resources, attractions and destinations are easy to find and never more than a short drive away.
Facilities for All
Conway has made a focused effort to invest in its sports facilities, and as a result, it has developed prime venues for a wide variety of events.
Baseball and softball are some of Conway’s most popular sports and, as such, they enjoy some of Conway’s newest families. The 2011 Arkansas Recreation and Parks Association “Park Sports Facility of the Year,” Conway Station Park is a nine-diamond complex; eight of its fields feature a 225-foot-long fence and one field has a 350-foot-long fence. The park is located in the center of town, near hotels and restaurants, and it delivers all of the extras necessary for happy athletes and spectators, including concessions and covered stands.
Softball lovers are drawn to one of the region’s top softball facilities, Conway’s City of Colleges Park. Completed in 2009, City of Colleges Park, the 2010 Arkansas Recreation and Parks Association “Park Sports Facility of the Year,” offers five lighted fields and is the home field for the national champion Central Baptist College women’s softball team.
The community has baseball and softball throughout, with three adult softball diamonds and a lighted baseball field at Beaverfork Lake in north Conway, a 25-acre park with facilities for fishing, swimming and boating. Curtis Walker Park also includes a lighted baseball field with two covered dugouts and Fifth Avenue Park has a lighted softball field complete with two covered dugouts.
Sports have a year-round home in Conway with numerous facilities for indoor sports. Buzz Bolding Arena, with seating for 1,800, hosts basketball, volleyball, cheerleading and gymnastics events. If you’re looking for a home for a horseshoe tournament or for any other event that requires a flexible space and experienced staff, the Conway Expo Center & Fairgrounds, with 6,222 square feet of meeting space, 40,779 square feet of covered space and an open air pavilion measuring 55,000 square feet, might be exactly what you’ve been searching for. Conway Sports Center is a 44,000-square-foot facility ideal for basketball and volleyball events, and the McGee Center offers three basketball courts, six volleyball courts and a walking track.
Volleyball has a big following in Conway, particularly during the winter and spring months. Demonstrating the city’s ability to coordinate and accommodate events of any size, Conway welcomed the 2014 Delta Region Championships for Fatchmo Volley, a Junior Olympic volleyball program. The tournament took players to three of Conway’s venues: the McGee Center; the University of Central Arkansas’ Health and Physical Education & Recreation Center, which features three, newly re-finished, full-size basketball courts that can be converted to badminton and volleyball courts; and the Don Owen Complex, with its three basketball courts, three lit baseball fields (300'-320’), six volleyball courts and walking track.
Conway’s other facilities and sports opportunities:
Cadron Settlement Park: Six acres of cleared bike trails, ideal for mountain biking events
Centennial Soccer Complex: Four lit fields, eight unlit fields
Hendrix College Facilities: three basketball courts, one baseball field (320’), one lacrosse field, one soccer field, one softball field (210’), four volleyball courts, Olympic-size swimming pool and a track
Lake Beaverfork: 1,000-acre lake that is ideal for swimming, boating, jet skiing, fishing
Lake Conway: the largest US man-made game and fish commissioned lake in the country; this 6,700-acre lake is perfect for bass, catfish, bream and crappie fishing
University of Central Arkansas Facilities: Four basketball courts, one baseball field with new turf, three soccer fields, four softball fields (three 300’ and one 225’), five volleyball courts, heated swimming pool, Indoor Center (an turf facility that is half the size of a football field)
Experience is Everything
When people talk about their visits to Conway, words like “friendliness” and “warmth” tend to come up a lot. First-rate facilities are a must for an outstanding sports event, but beyond that, experience is what takes an average event and makes it exceptional. Athletes who come to Conway find that their experience is Conway’s first priority, and they will leave with extraordinary sports experiences that they will never forget.
The team at the Conway Convention and Visitors Bureau is always on hand to make sure that every event and experience in Conway is one to remember. Find out more about how to plan a sports event in Conway, visit www.conwayark.com.