When the Mid-Atlantic region was settled, a melting pot of Europeans transformed waterways such as the Hudson and Delaware rivers and Chesapeake Bay into teeming shipping lanes to support its commerce, trade and heavy industry.
Despite being dubbed the “typically American” region in the late 19th century by historian Frederick Jackson Turner, however, the area has become singularly differentiated by rich history, bustling seaside boardwalks, rolling countrysides and family-friendly attractions further enhanced by easy accessibility and a well-earned reputation as a hub of sports tourism.
Huntington, West Virginia
As the center of activity in the Metro Valley, the city of Huntington, West Virginia is the perfect place to play.
Marshall University is home to the 2020 NCAA National Championship men’s soccer team. In addition to serving as the site of the 2016 Conference USA Men’s Soccer Championships, the sprawling complex hosts football, basketball, volleyball, cheerleading, softball, tennis and baseball at its range of first-class venues.
Huntington, in partnership with Barboursville and Charleston, West Virginia, has hosted the US Youth Soccer Eastern Regional Championships and Eastern Region Presidents Cup multiple times since 2009. The 7,500-seat Mountain Health Arena and newly renovated convention center offer convenient in-house services.
“From state-of-the-art facilities and fields to comfortable lodging and unique dining,” says Tyson Compton, president of the Huntington Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, “our region has everything you need to make your sports event a successful, memorable occasion.”
Hershey and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
The Hershey-Harrisburg region offers a unique combination of venues and attractions that turn sports events into lasting memories.
Within five hours of 30 million people, the area is an international destination boasting Hersheypark, Hershey’s Chocolate World, vibrant dining and a thriving arts and culture scene.
In addition, the range of facilities is equipped to host any type of sporting event. The 10,500-seat Giant Center features suites, club seating and media-friendly technology. The Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex & Expo Center has nearly 1 million square feet of indoor space, including three arenas and a 175,000-square-foot expo hall. Among the 200 events taking place annually is Mecum Auto Auctions, a four-day blockbuster with more than 1,000 collector cars, trucks and motorcycles.
“The Hershey-Harrisburg region is an ideal destination to extend a family vacation while offering big city amenities and attractions without big city traffic and prices,” says Gregg Cook, executive director of the Hershey Harrisburg Sports & Events Authority.
Through the collaborative efforts of TEAM Maryland, 16 destinations statewide are poised to host sports tourism events on first-class fields, diamonds, rinks, courts and courses.
In addition, funding is available to help with some costs. The Youth and Amateur Sports Grants and Michael Erin Busch Fund, administered by the Maryland Sports Commission, enhances annual sports tourism events while attracting competitors and fans to new youth and amateur sports events.
This year alone, the region is hosting the NCAA Division I Women’s Lacrosse Championships, World Lacrosse Women’s World Championship, Major League Quidditch, Maryland Cycling Classic Supported by UnitedHealthcare, Maryland 5 Star and USA Cycling Marathon Mountain Bike National Championships.
“Everyone is focused on heads in beds, but our reputation as a world-class sports tourism destination benefits our range of small business partners,” says Graham Whaples, marketing and communications associate for the Maryland Sports Commission. “It’s all part of building on best practices to develop next practices.”
Named America’s No. 1 river city, the Richmond, Virginia region is a place where teams want to play and where families want to visit.
The Greater Richmond Convention Center, longtime home of the USA Field Hockey National Indoor Tournament, has 178,000 square feet of contiguous exhibit hall space that can accommodate a wide variety of sporting event setups.
Dorey Park, which offers seven multipurpose fields, seven baseball fields and six softball fields, hosted the 2020 and 2021 USA Archery Target National Championships and U.S. Open. Pole Green Park, with 5K, 8K and 10K cross country courses, will be the site of the USA Track & Field Cross Country Championships in 2023 and 2024.
“We’ve got the facilities, attractions, restaurants and staff to ensure your event is a success,” says Danny Bonifas, director of sports and events at Richmond Region Tourism. “We’ll work alongside your team to make sure you’re on your game so they can be, too.”
Wilmington and the Brandywine Valley, Delaware
Located in the heart of the Mid-Atlantic Region, Wilmington and the Brandywine Valley offer first-class venues, a trendy dining and craft brewery scene and family-friendly attractions.
This past March, the city of Wilmington hosted the Atlantic 10 Conference Women’s Basketball Championship at the 2,500-seat Chase Fieldhouse, which is home to the NBA G League Delaware Blue Coats and the site of previous Philadelphia 76ers scrimmages.
USA Cycling has designated the Wilmington Grand Prix as one of the Top 10 criterium bike races in the country. Kirkwood Sports, formerly Kirkwood Soccer, hosts youth soccer and field hockey programs on an indoor turf field and 14 outdoor fields.
Away from competition, families enjoy the convenience of three hotels with myriad dining, entertainment and shopping options at Riverfront Wilmington.
“Wilmington and the Brandywine Valley offer endless opportunities to explore, play and discover the unexpected,” says Jennifer Boes, executive director of the Greater Wilmington Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Wicomico County, Maryland
Situated between the Atlantic Ocean and Chesapeake Bay, Wicomico County, Maryland is an ideal place to enjoy on or off the field of play.
The Wicomico Youth & Civic Center offers a 30,000-square-foot arena, 10,000-square-foot secondary arena, meeting rooms and other amenities. The center fills with high school basketball fans each December for the Governors Challenge, now the largest holiday basketball tournament in the nation. The venue is also the longstanding site of a 15-mat wrestling event that attracts 1,200 wrestlers each year, in addition to large AAU-affiliated volleyball events annually.
Wicomico County is not just a beautiful Mid-Atlantic location, but also a convenient one within two and a half hours of Baltimore, Washington, D.C. and Philadelphia.
“Wicomico County’s professional sports marketing team is experienced in hosting national and regional events,” says Chip Woytowitz, sports marketing representative for Wicomico County Tourism. “Our championship facilities are ready to accommodate your next event.”
Virginia Beach, Virginia
The vibrant coastal city of Virginia Beach, Virginia is the ideal stage for a truly unforgettable competitive experience.
Constructed in 2020, the 285,000 square-foot Virginia Beach Sports Center offers 12 basketball courts convertible to 24 volleyball courts, a 200-meter hydraulically banked indoor track and seating for 5,000 spectators. Across the street is the LEED Gold-certified Virginia Beach Convention Center with 500,000 square feet of event space supported by over 11,000 hotel rooms.
The Oceanfront district offers beautiful beaches, big-city amenities and an array of entertainment, shopping and dining options. Upcoming events include the North American Sand Soccer Championship and East Coast Surfing Championships in 2022, and the NCAA Track & Field Indoor Championships and Jackalope Festival in 2023.
“Success is a team effort,” says Dani Timm, sports marketing national sales manager at Visit Virginia Beach. “We’re giving you our best to bring out your best.”
Valley Forge and Montgomery County, Pennsylvania
Valley Forge and Montgomery County, Pennsylvania offer an enviable combination of facilities, amenities and a convenient location that few tournament sites can match.
Home of the 2021 Spikeball Roundnet Nationals and NXT Cup, the synthetic outdoor, lighted turf fields of the Proving Grounds are striped for men’s and women’s lacrosse, soccer, field hockey and more. The 240,000-square-foot Greater Philadelphia Expo Center features sport courts which can transform into 17 basketball courts and more than 35 volleyball courts.
In all, the region – within a one-day drive of 40 percent of the U.S. population – features more than 100 fields, 50 indoor courts, 50 baseball diamonds and 11 ice surfaces, three of which are NHL-sized.
“We’ve got whatever your event requires,” says Jon Scheuren, director of sports for the Valley Forge Sports Commission, “with amazing venues and attractions that make Valley Forge and Montgomery County the perfect places to play after you play.” SDM