Mid-Atlantic: The ‘Typically American’ Playground
26 Apr, 2013By: Peter Francesconi
Historian Frederick Jackson Turner, in 1893, said the mid-Atlantic region of the U.S. “was [the] least sectional, not only because it lay between North and South, but also because with no barriers to shut out its frontiers from its settled region, and with a system of connecting waterways, the Middle region mediated between East and West as well as between North and South. Thus it became the typically American region.”
This “typically American” region now comprises some 60 million people and includes the states of New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia. Situated as it is in a vast population corridor, the mid-Atlantic is nothing if not accessible, not just within itself, but also from the rest of the country as a whole.
Back in his day, Turner recognized that this “middle region” played an important role in U.S. culture, which it continues to do today. Now, we can add to that influence the important role it plays in sports events in America, for participants of all ages.
Softball, says Judi Hess of the Greater Binghamton CVB, is one of the big sports in the area. Outdoor tournaments draw from all over, and the Stop-DWI Tournament of Champions event, held in July, brings in teams from all over the country; in fact, more than 120 teams typically apply for the event, which accepts 60 teams.
One of the most popular facilities in the area is the BAGSAI Softball Complex, run by Broome County Parks, which offers four fields. The Greater Binghamton Sports Complex, which is the largest sports dome in the Northeast, has three indoor and two outdoor fields. With 124,000 square feet of competition space, the GBSC accommodates many types of field sports, including soccer and lacrosse; recently, the indoor dome held a two-day lacrosse tournament that brought in 99 teams.
Last year, Binghamton University did major renovations to its baseball and softball fields and tennis courts. The new university tennis complex features 14 outdoor courts. “The university will definitely help us continue to grow and offer new things,” says Hess. Binghamton is located in the heart of upstate New York, easily available by car and air.
Lehigh Valley offers a unique mix of sports venues, says Michael “Kuzy” Kusmuk, the director of sports marketing for Discover Lehigh Valley Sports, including a top-notch velodrome—the Valley Preferred Cycling Center—which hosts a number of regional, national and international cycling events every year.
“We’re also doing interesting and cool stuff with Bear Creek Mountain Resort,” Kusmuk says, including a USA Cycling mountain bike national championships in July. A few weeks later, a USA Cycling championships will be held at the velodrome, and “in between we’re doing a bike festival,” he says. Another important partner for sports in the area is Lehigh University, which has facilities that can handle all types of events, indoors and outdoors.
In addition, Lehigh Valley United is a local soccer club that hosts a number of tournaments each year.
Easily accessible from many mid-Atlantic areas, York County has a variety of facilities that can handle all sizes and types of sporting events. Indoors, there’s the multifaceted York Expo Center, which offers a total of 191,361 square feet of space spread among six buildings. The expo’s largest venue, the Toyota Arena, includes 74,000 square feet of clear-span space, perfect for everything from volleyball to wrestling, basketball and more.
One of the area’s newest venues is Sovereign Bank Stadium, home of the York Revolution baseball team. Aside from baseball and softball, the facility can also host lacrosse, football, field hockey and soccer events.
For ice hockey and figure skating, there’s the York City Ice Arena, which features two NHL-regulation ice surfaces, which each include five locker rooms, a referee room and spectator seating. The Graham Aquatic Center is a new 33,000-square-foot indoor/outdoor facility featuring a flexible floor plan and state-of-the-art amenities, able to handle everything from water polo to competitive swimming.
Annapolis and Anne Arundel County
“We’re in a highly sought-after area,” says Jo Ellyn McNees of the Annapolis & Anne Arundel County CVB. “
The Annapolis area has 11,000 hotel rooms, and for sports events organizers, there are facilities and venues that can handle all sorts of sports. “Our 11 turf fields are very attractive to sports organizers,” says McNees. The area hosts lacrosse camp every year, as well as large soccer events. There are 114 baseball/softball fields (including six lighted fields at the Bachman Sports Complex), and the Maryland Sportsplex features two futsal courts, four volleyball courts and an indoor turf field.
There’s also the state-of-the-art Chesapeake BMX facility. In June, the venue will host the USA BMX East Coast Nationals. McNees says the CVB also has been looking at some untraditional sports, such as paintball tournaments.
It’s all about location, says Kelly Groff of the Montgomery Conference and Visitors Bureau, “and our region is kind of right in the center of the mid-Atlantic region along the whole coast. It’s a central location from south or north, and a great destination for bringing events. We’re close to three major airports, easily accessible by car.”
Montgomery County also has one of the largest soccer facilities on the East Coast, the Maryland SoccerPlex, which has 23 irrigated fields, organized in clusters of four or five fields, with parking and restrooms for each cluster. The Championship Stadium sits in a natural bowl, with seating for 3,200, and there’s also an indoor arena with 66,000 square feet. Every year, the SoccerPlex welcomes more than 600,000 visitors and hosts more than 4,500 matches. It also plays host to lacrosse, too.
The area is home to two top-notch aquatic centers, the Germantown Indoor Swim Center and the Kennedy Shriver Aquatic Center, for swimming and diving events, and there also are excellent facilities for other sports, including golf, skating, hockey and more.
In the heart of the coastal Virginia region and on the Chesapeake Bay, Hampton’s mild weather helps to make it an ideal location for outdoor sports, as well as water sports.
“This is a great destination for sports,” says Tiffany Carr of the Hampton CVB. “And we’re very fortunate to have some fantastic indoor facilities, too.” The 135,000-square-foot Boo Williams Sportsplex has eight courts for sports such as basketball, indoor field hockey, volleyball and more. The Hampton Coliseum is ideal for such sports as wrestling, gymnastics, cheer, indoor archery, hockey and basketball, and the Hampton Roads Convention Center can support any indoor athletic event.
Outdoor facilities include the 49-acre Briarfield Park, with four lighted softball fields and five lighted tennis courts; Darling Stadium, which has been home to a number of state and regional events; and Hampton University’s Armstrong Stadium. Buckroe Beach can easily support kayaking, swimming, beach volleyball, biking and more, and it will host a triathlon in June.
When it comes to athletic facilities, Lynchburg is changing rapidly, says Denise Scatliffe Jackson of the Lynchburg Regional CVB. She points to recent and future expansions to the facilities at Liberty University, which will improve football, baseball, softball, tennis and more. There also are new fields for soccer and lacrosse, and plans are to build an Olympic-size swimming pool.
But Liberty University isn’t the only game in town. “We have quite a few colleges and universities here, and they all offer their athletic facilities for outside events,” Jackson says. In addition to Liberty University, the area is home to Lynchburg College, Randolph-Macon Woman’s College, and Sweet Briar College.
In the past few years, Virginia Beach has seen growth of indoor sports such as wrestling, fencing, gymnastics and more have done particularly well in the community.
The Virginia Beach Convention Center offers 150,000-square-feet of column-free space, making it suitable for all types of events. “We’re fortunate that our space is very flexible,” says Nancy Helman of the Virginia Beach CVB.
Of course, “The oceanfront is our crown jewel,” she says. Virginia Beach hosts sand soccer events, beach volleyball tournaments, surfing competitions and more. Outdoor venues include the Princess Anne Athletic Complex, which has eight lighted, tournament-quality softball fields, seven multi-purpose fields (two lighted), and full-service concession stands, among other amenities.