Warm Southeastern Hospitality
24 Jul, 2017By: Kathleen A. DeMarco
A Part of the Sports Tradition
The Southeast, known for its hospitality, offers a winning combining of world-class multi-sport and unique venues, family- and budget-friendly destinations, and historical and natural treasures.
More than a Just a College Town
Fayetteville, home to the University of Arkansas, is more than just a college football town. Facilities are available for basketball, biking, bowling, equestrian, fishing, football, disc golf, golf, gymnastics, ice skating, rock climbing, skateboarding, softball, soccer, swimming, tennis, track and volleyball.
“Fayetteville has a college-town feel, but we also offer Ozark Mountain attractions and Southern hospitality,” says John Lamparski, sports sales manager for Experience Fayetteville. “We want sports event visitors to experience all of our city, not just the venues where the competitions are being held.”
The 43,000-square-foot AAO P. Whitaker Sports Center offers five basketball and six volleyball courts with bleacher seating, and a sports training center, and hosts local, regional and national sports events and tournaments including the 80-team King of the Hill Basketball Classic.
Fayetteville’s 200-acre Kessler Mountain Regional Park offers six full-size lighted soccer fields and four baseball fields. Lake Fayetteville Recreation Area and Walker Park are each home to 18-hole disc golf courses.
Big Facilities, Multiple Events
Multi-sport venues abound in Birmingham, Alabama. “Our facilities and our enthusiastic population drive sports tourism in Birmingham,” says David Galbaugh, vice president of sports sales and marketing, Greater Birmingham Convention & Visitors Bureau.
Birmingham CrossPlex’s indoor track and field, natatorium and arena hosted the 2013 and 2017 NCAA Division II National Championships Festival’s swimming and diving, indoor track and field and wrestling events.
The Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex’s 18,000-seat, 10-story Legacy Arena hosts WBC World Heavyweight Championships and USTA Federation Cup and Davis Cup events. Hoover Metropolitan Complex provides a 10,800-seat stadium, 11 basketball courts and 17 volleyball courts. Coming in 2018, Met Complex Outdoor Fields and Tennis Courts will add five multi-sport fields, five fields for baseball or softball and 16 tennis courts.
Greensboro, North Carolina: Playing a Big Game
“We’re not a first-tier city, but our facilities are disproportionate in a good way,” explains Brian Ambuehl, national sales manager, sports division, Greensboro CVB. “Our state-of-the-art venues, 18,000 hotel rooms and accessibility equip Greensboro for multi-sport events.”
The Greensboro Coliseum Complex hosted events for the USA Masters Games and others. The Complex includes 22,000-seat and 4,500-seat arenas, a 150,000-square-foot multi-use special events center, a 2,400-seat auditorium, and a 30,000-square-foot pavilion.
Greensboro Aquatic Center meets NCAA/FINA standards for competitive swimming, diving, water polo and synchronized swimming.
The Irwin Belk Track Complex at North Carolina A&T State University will be the site of 2019 AAU Junior Olympic Games track events, bringing 12,000 athletes to town. BB&T Soccer Complex at Bryan Park comprises 17 Bermuda grass fields (13 are lighted), and the 2,000-seat McPherson Stadium.
A Statewide Effort
South Carolina Sports Alliance, a statewide collaborative, brings in $600,000,000 annually through sports tourism, and maintains a facilities database to help organizers choose venues.
“We bring a collaborative approach. Statewide, we can meet the needs of any sporting event,” says Lindsay Burns, TMP, marketing & public relations coordinator.
In Rock Hill, Giordana Velodrome, a 250-meter world-class facility endorsed by USA Cycling, is site of its 2017 Masters Track National Championships. The Novant Health BMX Supercross Track was selected for the 2017 BMX World Championships by Union Cycliste Internationale.
In Aiken, equestrian is king. Whitney Field at Aiken Polo Club hosts the annual “Triple Crown of Aiken,” featuring flat races, steeplechase and polo. Nearby, the Highfields Event Center offers three all-weather rings, grass jumper field, derby field and polo field.
Upstate, Greenville and Lake Hartwell will host the 2018 GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods.
Family-Friendly Fun When the Competition is Done
In the foothills of Great Smokey Mountains National Park, Sevierville, Tennessee, and neighboring cities Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg attract 11 million visitors a year to compete and relax at Dollywood theme park, Tennessee Smokies Baseball, NASCAR SpeedPark and more.
Amanda Marr, director of marketing & communications for Sevierville Chamber of Commerce, says, “We’re a value destination for visitors coming in for sports events. The dollar stretches far here, and there is something for every member of the family.”
Sevierville Convention Center’s 240,000 square feet of indoor and 54,450 square feet of outdoor space offer flexible options for everything from weightlifting to cheer and dance competitions. Sevierville Golf Club, just outside the Convention Center, has two championship courses plus event and meeting space.
Sevierville City Parks & Recreation Department can host a variety of events, from field sports to tennis to swimming to racquetball and bowling.
Teaming Up to Bring the Teams
Columbus, Georgia, offers a variety of competitive venue options, all supported by the Columbus Georgia Sports Council. “We coordinate closely with our Convention and Visitors Bureau, Parks and Recreation and Civic Center in a team approach to bring sports events to the city,” says Merri Sherman, the Council’s executive director.
With 5,000 hotel rooms and a consolidated government (which means dealing with one municipality for large-scale event requirements), Columbus’ facilities can accommodate 20 different sports on the professional, collegiate, amateur and youth levels.
South Commons Softball Complex has seven lighted fields plus a 2,500-seat stadium field. Columbus Aquatic Center features 50-meter and 25-meter pools, one-meter and three-meter diving, seating for 900 and video live-streaming capabilities.
Columbus also features the longest urban whitewater course in the world, enabling Columbus to host the USA Kayak Nationals in April.
Not-So-Hidden Treasures on the Treasure Coast
Florida’s Treasure Coast Sports Commission represents Indian River, St. Lucie and Martin Counties on the Atlantic Coast. “The Treasure Coast offers more than 20 venues for 38 different sports, where over 80 events are held annually,” says Rick Hatcher, executive director of the Commission.
Historic Dodgertown in Vero Beach is one of the nation’s premier multi-sport training sites and conference centers, with facilities for baseball, softball, soccer, rugby, lacrosse, football, swimming and rowing. First Data Field in Port St. Lucie, spring training home of the New York Mets, is available for youth, high school and college sports events outside of the spring training season.
Sailfish Splash Waterpark in Stuart hosts over 25 competitive events annually in its Olympic-size, FINA-compliant, geothermally heated and chilled pool.
All the Facilities in One Place
Chappapeela Sports Park in Hammond, Louisiana, halfway between New Orleans and Baton Rouge, is a 100-acre facility with 23 soccer fields, 12 baseball/softball fields, two football/lacrosse/soccer fields, a 1,600-square-foot gym with seating for 500, two recreation ponds and a 1.5-mile track. Weekdays, the park hosts youth and adult local sports and health/wellness programs. On weekends, it is available for competitive sports events.
In 2016, 53 events were held at the park including youth and adult baseball, softball, volleyball, CrossFit, martial arts, soccer, pickleball, dance/cheer and gymnastics. Of note, Triple Crown Softball, All-State Sugar Bowl Lacrosse, ASA Elite Softball and National Gracie United martial arts competitions were recently hosted at the park.
Ryan Barker, executive director, notes, “We partner with the local CVB for hotel rooms and other accommodations and can take care of all requirements for sports events.”
First-Class, Flexible Facilities
“In Tupelo, Mississippi, teams are going to play at top-notch facilities and enjoy opportunities for recreation outside the sporting venues,” says Brian Rucker, sports sales manager, Tupelo Convention and Visitors Bureau.
BancorpSouth Arena and Conference Center offers an 8,500-seat arena for events including ice skating, cheer/dance, hockey and basketball.
Tupelo’s 206-acre Veterans Memorial Park complex includes the 43,665-square-foot indoor Tupelo Aquatic Center, with eight-lane Olympic-size competition pool, 20-lane short-course pool and five-lane warm-up/cool-down pool. Events in 2017 included the MSI Short Course Championships, MSI Long Course Championships, Southern Zone Age Group Championships, Southern Zone Masters Short Course Meters Championships and high school State Championships.
Veterans Park also has facilities for disc golf, running and triathlon, and hosts the annual Tupelo Sprint Triathlon swim/bike/run event. The park includes the newest course used by the Tupelo Disc Golf Association, which hosted the Southern National Pro-Am Disc Golf Championships’ 200 competitors in May.
City-owned Ballard Park Sportsplex boasts 153 acres comprising nine baseball fields, a soccer complex with 10 full-size lighted fields, five small fields and a stadium field, disc golf course and the 12,000-square-foot, two-level Tupelo Skate Park. SDM