The Coast with the Most
1 May, 2019By: Cindy Cantrell
The Mid-Atlantic region is known for large cities boasting diverse cultures, rich history and inspiring geography whose majestic mountains and picturesque beaches entice skiers, hikers and surfers alike. However, the region’s world-class amenities within bustling urban centers make it a popular destination for a multitude of sporting events. With tourism as one of the area’s largest industries, there is always something new for athletes, their families and general sports fans to discover – or return to enjoy.
Harford County, Maryland
Situated at the top of Chesapeake Bay, within a two-hour drive of Baltimore, Philadelphia and Washington, DC, Harford County offers an ideal blend of sports and sightseeing.
There is no lack of sports venues here. Baseball players can learn the “Ripken way” at Ripken Stadium, which is also home to the Aberdeen IronBirds, a Single-A affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles. The APGFCU Arena at Harford Community College hosts the Fighting Owls men’s and women’s basketball and women’s volleyball teams, as well as various indoor events. Harford County also has multiple golf courses.
Local diversions include authentic paddlewheel boat rides, bald eagle viewing, visits to the historic Concord Point Lighthouse, craft breweries, wineries, cow-to-cone creameries, food trucks and a restaurant app – all supported by 2,800 hotel rooms within minutes of I-95.
“This is a fun place to be, and easy to get to,” says Visit Harford Executive Director Greg Pizzuto, “which is why people keep coming back.”
Wildwoods Convention Center, Wildwoods, New Jersey
With an eye-popping 260,000 square feet, it’s no wonder this multi-purpose facility regularly hosts basketball, wrestling, futsal, volleyball, gymnastics, cheer and dance competitions.
Natural light streams through the Teflon-coated fabric roof, with ocean views visible from the main exhibit hall, lobby area and outside deck. Events also take place directly on the beach, such as Ultimate, lacrosse and a recent beach soccer tournament with 100 fields.
The unique location is enhanced by direct access to the world-famous Boardwalk, with over 100 rides and attractions, three water parks, arcades, shops and eateries stretching for 38 blocks. The convention center’s catering and concession services also offer everything from pizza to four-star cuisine.
“The facility can handle any kind of event, with a great family atmosphere,” says Ben Rose, director of marketing and public relations for the Greater Wildwoods Tourism Improvement and Development Authority. “Why go anywhere else?”
In the summertime, Loudoun is all about fastpitch softball, with tournaments taking place on 26 fields at five facilities within just 15 minutes of one another. When the weather turns, ice hockey tournaments dominate the region.
Beginning in May 2019, indoor event planners will have many more options with the opening of the Ion International Training Center. The 100,000 square-foot, world-class training center in Leesburg will feature a 3,500-seat arena, locker rooms, meeting rooms and a restaurant. Also under construction is a 5,000-seat soccer stadium, slated for completion in August 2019, to complement four existing complexes in the area.
Another attractive aspect of the area is the commute. Dulles International Airport is in Loudoun County, and Washington, DC, is within an hour’s drive. An extension of the metro’s Silver Line will begin transporting riders to both locations in 2020.
“Come a day early, stay a day late,” says Torye Hurst, director of sales, sports and services at Visit Loudoun, “and enjoy a vacation.”
Hershey Harrisburg Region, Pennsylvania
Along with its global reputation as “The Sweetest Place on Earth,” Hershey can be counted on for accessible venues for any competition and budget.
The Giant Center is home to the Hershey Bears AHL hockey team, as well as high school state championship events. Fans at Hersheypark Stadium can hear the roar of nearby rollercoasters, with more on the way when Chocolatetown – a 23-acre, $150 million expansion project – opens at the iconic amusement park in summer 2020.
The Harrisburg Senators, an AA affiliate of the Washington Nationals, play at FNB Field. Space is no concern at the one-million square-foot Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex and Expo Center, also located in Harrisburg, which hosts basketball, volleyball, wrestling, soccer, equestrian competitions and other sports.
“This is a family-first and family-best events destination,” says Allison Rohrbaugh, marketing and communications manager for the Hershey Harrisburg Sports & Events Authority, “and it’s getting better all the time.”
Prince George County, Virginia
An early loss in baseball, softball, soccer or other tournaments (all taking place in the fields, pools and ice of great local venues) can still end on a high note due to the myriad diversions to be found in Prince George County.
“We’re small,” notes Yoti Jabri, the county’s economic development specialist, “but we’re mighty.”
Visitors can take their best shot at SplatBrothers Paintball Park, or try laser tag, go-karts, mini golf, batting cages, an arcade and driving range at Swaders Sports Park. Tree Time Adventures is opening this spring, while doses of culture are metered free of charge at the Prince George County Regional Heritage Center, U.S. Army Quartermaster Museum and U.S. Army Women’s Museum.
The Prince George County sports tourism guide includes listings of lodging and restaurants, as well as medical facilities. Young athletes can take this level of preparedness to heart. It’s okay if a problem arises, as long as there is a plan in place to solve it with experienced staff – and that is a point on which Prince George County prides itself.
Atlantic City Sports Commission, New Jersey
The Atlantic City Sports Commission joined forces with Spectra to devise a seamless way for specific sporting events to take place at the 486,000-square-foot Atlantic City Convention Center, while keeping costs low for event organizers. With the approval of $966,000 from the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority, Spectra purchased 18 courts with 36 basketball hoops and 18 volleyball nets which may be rented, thus saving organizations the cost of shipping.
“We just held our first event in February, and we already see the ROI paying off,” says Daniel Gallagher, the commission’s director of sports sales. “It’s a true game-changer.”
Atlantic City’s enduring popularity begins with its location, within a few hours’ drive of nearly one-third of the nation’s population. Its world-famous beach differentiates it from other gaming locales, and the five-mile Boardwalk is the most historic in the country. With nearly 18,000 hotel rooms, guests are afforded options in views, fine dining and other amenities to fit a multitude of tastes and budgets.
Calvert County, Maryland
“Calvert County, located on the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland, is for beach-goers, boaters, nature-lovers, craft beverage connoisseurs, shoppers, foodies and everything in between – and there’s a lot in between,” said Tourism Program Specialist Hilary Dailey. “There’s always more to explore in Calvert County, Maryland.”
This June, the seventh annual End Hunger Dragon Boat Festival showcases the destination’s ability to host coastal sports. The event is expected to draw 4,000 spectators. Then, the fourth annual Solomons Island Dragon Boat Festival arrives in August to benefit SMCR, Inc.
Bordered by the Chesapeake Bay on the east and the Patuxent River on the west, Calvert County is also known for fishing (in fact, the Rod N Reel Pro-Am Fishing Tournament was held on Chesapeake Beach last May). Crabbing and fossil-hunting are popular postgame activities.
Greater Binghamton, New York
With its storied history of showcasing sporting events from the local level to the national stage, Greater Binghamton offers an assortment of state-of-the-art, multi-use athletic facilities.
The AHL Binghamton Devils, affiliated with the NHL’s New Jersey Devils, play home games at the Floyd L. Maines Veterans Memorial Arena which also hosts basketball, gymnastics, professional tennis and other sports.
With 124,000 square feet of competition space, the domed Greater Binghamton Sports Complex allows for simultaneous play on two softball fields or five soccer fields. Binghamton University’s campus, home of the Division I Bearcats, has numerous upgraded venues.
Players craving downtime may cheer on semi-pro football, basketball and baseball action, or visit the famous April the giraffe at Animal Adventure Park in Harpursville.
“In addition to excellent facilities, we have a strong pool of volunteers who love helping with events,” says Judi Hess, director of Visit Binghamton. “They give the extra push to make a tournament special.” SDM
Write YOUR Success Story in Virginia Beach
“We would not be able to succeed without the city of Virginia Beach and the community and how it supports our events and is out there to greet all of our participants and the spectators and make it just a fun atmosphere to put on an event,” says Amy Frostick, owner of J&A Racing and Race Director of the annual Shamrock Marathon. In Virginia Beach, you have the support of the best team in the business with the track record to prove it, ready to take your game to the next level.
With the new 285,000-square-foot Virginia Beach Sports Center coming in 2020, a 150,000-square-foot column-free exhibit hall across the street, over 35 multi-purpose fields, 11,000 hotel rooms and miles of beautiful public beaches on your side, we’re giving you our best so you can bring out yours.