East-North Central

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Northeast, Naturally

19 Dec, 2021

By: Cindy Cantrell

The Northeast region beckons with picturesque vistas, historic landmarks, indulgent cuisine, nightlife and sports venues to fill the calendars of athletes and spectators alike throughout all four seasons. Following are a sampling of travelers’ favorite destinations any time of year.

Maine

While the raw beauty of Maine makes it a sports haven year-round, the list of winter events is particularly varied.

The Carrabassett Fat Tire Race at Sugarloaf, part of the Maine Fat Bike Winter Series, offers short and long courses. The Can-Am Crown International Sled Dog Races in Fort Kent feature distances of 30, 100 and 250 miles, all designed to maximize spectator accessibility and visibility.

At the U.S. National Toboggan Championships, costumed teams enjoy a festive atmosphere at the Camden Snow Bowl while utilizing an historic 400-foot-long wood toboggan chute. Other family-friendly events include Carnaval in Portland, the Rangeley Snodeo in Rangeley and the Maine Pond Hockey Classic, an annual fundraiser in Sidney with proceeds benefiting the nearby Alfond Youth & Community Center in Waterville.

“The countless sporting events that happen here every winter are a chance to gear up and enjoy this special place in a whole different style,” said Maine Sports Commission Director Sheila Brennan Nee. “For the pros, almost pros, not even close to pros and fans who just like to come cheer, our calendar is full of events all four seasons.”

Valley Forge and Montgomery County, Pennsylvania

The Valley Forge and Montgomery County, Pennsylvania area isn’t just home to traditional sports. With more than 20 venues for every major competition, the region hosts unique events like breakdancing, NXL Paintball and nationals for USA Climbing and Spikeball.

Easily accessible to one-third of the country’s population, Valley Forge and “Montco” are within 40 minutes of Philadelphia International Airport. Plus, the area offers free parking, 80 hotels, 1,600 restaurants and a family-friendly environment with a range of activities for adults and kids. Whether driving or flying in, attendees will enjoy an easily accessible, affordable alternative to gathering in a major city.

Jon Scheuren, director of sports for the Valley Forge Sports, Events & Tourism Authority, said his team can additionally provide support to tournament directors – perhaps even event funding.

“The Valley Forge Sports Team is dedicated to ensuring that event organizers succeed, starting with site selection and until the last player leaves the field,” he said.

Lake George, New York

The Lake George Area, gateway to the six million-acre Adirondack State Park in Upstate New York, is centrally located to most major cities in the Northeast – and only an hour’s drive from Albany International Airport.

Designated as the birthplace of the “American vacation,” it boasts more than 200 outdoor recreational activities and cultural attractions including white-water rafting, zip-lining, historical forts and a Six Flags Amusement Park. Or experience adventure at every turn with over 200 miles of local trails, a nationally recognized 32-mile lake, two groomed peaks and endless natural wonders.

In addition, the area offers more than 7,000 guest rooms at waterfront resorts, leading hotel brands and budget-friendly accommodations, as well as 5,000 campsites.

“From mountains to lakes, arenas to fields, the Lake George Area combines world-class sports facilities with affordable lodging, exciting activities, walkable streets and a family-friendly atmosphere all year round,” said Gina Mintzer, executive director of the Lake George Regional Convention & Visitors Bureau.

Binghamton, New York

Greater Binghamton continues to thrive due to innovators whose vision and investment extend to its vibrant sports scene.

Binghamton University’s sports facilities are soon to be transformed with a $60 million anonymous gift that will create a new Baseball Stadium Complex. The recently renamed Mirabito Stadium, home to the New York Mets Double-A affiliate Binghamton Rumble Ponies, was recently approved for $2 million in renovations to its training facilities, complementing previous upgrades to its speaker system and scoreboard.

Formerly home of the largest dome in the country, the Greater Binghamton Sports Complex is being rebuilt with steel supports and rubberized court flooring for multi-use. The Binghamton Bulldogs Sports Complex features one NBA-sized court, as well as the flexibility to use the floor as two high school-sized courts for playing games, running camps and hosting volleyball.

“Visit Binghamton is so excited to watch the new construction and facility upgrades taking place locally, which put our community in an even stronger position to host world-class competitions,” said Judi Hess, director of Visit Binghamton. “We invite you to bring your events here and become ‘Part of Our Story.’”

Erie, Pennsylvania

In Erie, Pennsylvania, a renovated four-season dome facility is providing major opportunities for locals and event directors alike.

The new Erie Sports Center features a full-sized FIFA turf field under the dome, 12 outdoor grass fields, a Fun Park, 120-seat health café (with indoor and outdoor access) and meeting space areas with new televisions equipped with live streaming capability. The space has already proven to be a popular location for soccer, lacrosse and Ultimate, with expansion plans for baseball and softball training.

Mark Jeanneret, executive director of the Erie Sports Commission, said the world-class center is already making an impact through hosting tournaments and regular training programming.

“The transformation at Erie Sports Center has been nothing short of remarkable, particularly in the sports dome,” he said. “It will be a major asset to Erie, and to any event seeking a home in a brand-new, four-season turf facility.”

Connecticut

For the 23.5 million people living within a two-hour drive of Connecticut, the state’s compact size offers proximity to dynamic cities, scenic sites and family-friendly attractions that add appeal for event planners, athletes and spectators. 

 Fastpitch Nation Park in Windsor is the largest dedicated fastpitch softball complex in the Northeast, with numerous annual tournaments. Dillon Stadium, home of the United Soccer League franchise Hartford Athletic, is adding a professional women’s W League soccer team in 2022. 

The Connecticut Convention Center in Hartford welcomes boxing, cheerleading, mixed martial arts and the New England Region Volleyball Association’s annual Winterfest tournament, which is expanding from two to three weekends in 2022. At Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods Resort Casino, a variety of major sporting events enhance the total entertainment experience.

“Connecticut is perfect for events because we are a small state with different regions, and we can offer more customized, affordable, personal service to organizers and athletes than larger metropolitan cities,” said Robert Murdock, president of the Connecticut Convention & Sports Bureau. “We really roll out the red carpet to welcome and service them.”

Rhode Island

Rhode Island is ready to meet all sports and leisure needs. A variety of stadiums, fields and courts are never too far from comfortable lodging or fun, family-friendly activities.

In Providence, the Dunkin’ Donuts Center is home to basketball and ice hockey of all skill levels. Right next door is the Rhode Island Convention Center where cheerleading and gymnastics events take center stage, while nationally recognized hotels, dining, shopping and attractions are just steps away.

John Gibbons, executive director of the Rhode Island Sports Commission, said it’s no wonder the Ocean State continues to serve as a year-round destination for all types of youth, collegiate and professional sports teams.

“Each year we’re honored to not only welcome returning business, but to host new events and showcase our destination to new visitors,” he said. “Our first-class indoor and outdoor facilities are ready to host virtually any type of tournament.”

Great Lakes Bay, Michigan

The Great Lakes Bay region has been described as a waterfront wonder. It is comprised of six cities – Frankenmuth, Bay City, Midland, Saginaw, Birch Run and Chesaning – each of which offers facilities for sporting events of every size, supported by bustling downtowns with distinct flair.

The Saginaw Township Soccer Complex hosts camps and tournaments for all ages, and there are five lighted fields at Redcoats Softball Complex in Midland. In addition to being home of the Ontario Hockey League’s Saginaw Spirit, the Dow Event Center has presented some of the most iconic names in entertainment.

Events held in 2021 included the WTA Dow Tennis Classic, LPGA Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational, Hockey USA Mid-Michigan Regional Silver Stick Tournament, Great Lax Bay Classic lacrosse tournament, Women’s State Championship for bowling and the Bassmaster catch-and-release tournament for high school and college anglers.

“Because we represent three counties,” said Go Great Sports Manager Drew Compau, “we offer an array of activities for people of different ages and budgets.” SDM

 
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