The Mid-Atlantic: Vibrant, Growing and Easily Accessible

30 May, 2017

By: Kathleen A. DeMarco
These Destinations Can Be Reached Easily Via Air, Car, and in Some Cases, Even Boat

The Mid-Atlantic’s growth as a sports destination lies in its proactive sports commissions and ‘sports-cation’ destinations that attract teams, individual athletes, their families – and return visits.

Erie: The Erie Sports Commission, 2016 Sports Commission of the Year, has grown sports tourism from nine to over 50 events in two years. “Our teamwork and ability to ‘right-size’ events for our community and venues has brought us success,” says Ron Sertz, executive director for the Commission.

Presque Isle State Park, a 3,200-acre peninsula jutting into Lake Erie, hosts running, biking, beach volleyball, boating, fishing and swimming events. Erie’s Ultimate club hosts the Beach Ultimate there, and several other beach-specific events call the park home, including Soccer in the Sand and the EVP Tour.

The 6,700-seat multi-purpose Erie Insurance Arena recently underwent a $47 million restoration/expansion. From September through April, the concrete floor is converted to ice that can be covered with synthetic insulated panels for basketball, cheerleading and wrestling.
Bayfront Convention Center adds 100,000 square feet of space for gymnastics, weightlifting and other indoor events, with free parking and two full-service hotels attached.

Four nearby universities, Mercyhurst, Gannon, Edinboro and Penn State Erie, The Behrend College, also contribute facilities to Erie’s inventory.

Pocono Mountains: The Pocono Mountains is a four-season destination for sports. “We draw 27 million visitors a year because of our easy access and year-round activities,” says David M. Jackson, CMP, vice president of sales at Pocono Mountains Convention & Visitors Bureau.
Split Rock Resort hosts the 300-team Pennsylvania Ragnar Relay, USARA Adventure Race National Championships and the Pennsylvania REV3 Triathlon. Split Rock offers an indoor waterpark and 27-hole championship golf course.

Skirmish USA, the world’s largest paintball facility, has 50 playing fields. In addition to paintball events, Skirmish USA hosts the Pennsylvania Savage Race attracting 3,200 athletes and 1,800 spectators.

Pocono Raceway hosts three annual NASCAR and INDYCAR weekends that draw 100,000 spectators, and also the Pennsylvania Tough Mudder’s 15,000 athletes and 11,000 for the Pennsylvania Warrior Dash.

New York
Long Island: “Long Island, known as a vacation destination, is also becoming known as a sports destination,” says Jennifer Rothman, CSEE, sports development manager at Discover Long Island. “Indoor and outdoor venues are ready to host any kind of athletic competition, and our proximity to major metropolitan centers make us accessible.”

The Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum just completed a $130 million renovation and offers 416,000 square feet of floor space, NHL-regulation ice rink, and seating for 13,000. It hosts basketball and indoor lacrosse events and provides 60,000 square feet of space beneath its main floor for exhibits.

The Nassau County Aquatic Center in Eisenhower Park, host to major swimming and diving competitions, includes a “stretch” 50-meter pool and diving well with 10-meter competition diving tower and one- and three-meter springboards. The Aquatic Center will host the USA Synchronized Swimming America Open in June and USA Swimming U.S. Open in August. The 930-acre Eisenhower Park complex adds three golf courses and softball/baseball fields to its available venues, and hosts the annual Divas Half Marathon race.

New Jersey
Atlantic City: Surf isn’t the only thing surging in Atlantic City; its two-year-old Sports Commission has proactively grown sports tourism in the seaside resort. “We’re a one-stop shop,” says Dan Gallagher, national sales manager. “Organizers work with one person to contract sports venues, hotels and transportation, as well as municipal and marketing services.” 

The Atlantic City Convention Center’s 486,000 square feet of contiguous floor space hosts volleyball, cheer and dance competitions, including the recent Cheer & Dance Extreme’s Ba$h for Ca$h.

Boardwalk Hall features a 141,000-square-foot main arena with over 14,700 seats. The Atlantic City boardwalk hosts running events including the annual April Fool’s Half Marathon, and its adjacent beach will host the September 2017 IRONMAN 70.3 Atlantic City and the annual Red Bull Surf and Rescue lifeguard competition.

The 142-acre Bader Field hosts a wide variety of annual tournaments and events. In August, Red Bull Global Rallycross will return, featuring a mixed track of dirt and tarmac plus a 70-foot jump.

Meadowlands/Liberty Region: The Meadowlands Sports Complex includes the 90,000-seat MetLife Stadium and Meadowlands Racetrack, home of the annual Hambletonian Stakes. Coming to the Meadowlands in 2017 are international soccer events including the FIFA World Cup Qualifier, FIFA Confederations Cup and an August match between Mexico and Ireland.

The Meadowlands Exposition Center at Harmon Meadow is a 61,000-square-foot multi-use facility that recently hosted the Cobra Challenge Super Youth Circuit/Cadet Fencing Tournament and Star Power Talent dance competition, and will host the Third Annual World Dance Championship in August.

Judith Ross, CDME, vice president of Meadowlands Regional Chamber & Meadowlands Liberty Convention & Visitors Bureau, says, “This area is known for major sports from basketball, hockey, football, soccer and lacrosse. Our Chamber and Bureau are very involved in bid opportunities for sports events, including venue selection, transportation and accommodations, volunteer recruiting and promotions.”

Prince William County & Manassas: “Sports tourism is a newer market for us,” says Mark Kowalewski, director of sales for Discover Prince William County & Manassas Convention and Visitors Bureau. “We’re seeking to add a sports-focused sales staff, as our proximity to Washington D.C., accessibility to major airports and highways, and variety of venues makes us an attractive ‘sports/vacation’ destination.” The area recently hosted the USA BMX Stars & Stripes Nationals, the State Little League 9/10 Tournament, 3x3 Live Soccer and the Prince William Half Marathon.

Facilities include two indoor Olympic pools, an ice arena and a host of fields for softball, baseball and soccer; two rivers provide venues for crew and kayak competitions.

Prince William County Fairgrounds’ indoor and outdoor venues include a grandstand area with bleacher seating for 4,000 and clay track for motorsports; a several-acre grass midway space; several open-floor, climate-controlled buildings from 4,000 to 10,000 square feet; and a horse show arena and barn for equestrian events.

Prince William Ice Center offers both an Olympic-size rink and an NHL-regulation rink for hockey, curling and other ice sports; it will host US Speedskating Trials in 2017 and several US Speedskating camps.

Elite Shooting Sports is a 65,000-square-foot premier indoor shooting facility with four shooting ranges totaling 42 lanes and a simulator training facility.

Part of the state’s Stadium Authority, Maryland Sports represents all venues including those owned by the Parks & Recreation Department as well as professional, youth and amateur sports venues. “We are an excellent connection organization for sports organizers, and support events all over the state, including soccer, lacrosse, equestrian and football,” said Ashley Harper-Cottrell, project manager, who points out venues in the following areas.

Salisbury: The Henry S. Parker Athletic Complex is planning for expansion and currently offers four softball fields (three lighted), a lighted baseball field, two lighted utility fields, spectator seating and ample parking. It hosts national championship events for ASA Women’s Major Modified softball, USSSA Girls’ Fast Pitch, USSSA Baseball and NSA Men’s Fast Pitch.

Cecil County: Calvert Regional Park, a newer facility, is becoming a powerhouse location with more than 10 multi-purpose natural grass fields for soccer and lacrosse. Nearby, Fair Hill Natural Resource Center, a Concours Complet International (CCI) *** (three-star) equestrian event venue, is expanding with fields for soccer and lacrosse.

Worcester County: Worcester County encompasses family-friendly destinations Ocean City and Assateague Island. Paige Hurley, director of Worcester County Department of Recreation & Parks, also wants sports organizers to know its facilities offer a variety of options for athletic competitions.

“Our Department controls the scheduling of our sports facilities, and our proximity to vacation destinations makes us a great draw for tournaments,” said Hurley.

Northern Worcester Athletic Complex houses three baseball fields with 200-foot-long fences, one field with a 250-foot-long fence, and a lighted senior league field, along with five full-size multi-purpose grass fields, two with lights. The facility hosts the 300-team UAAA Girls Fastpitch World Series and the 220-team Aloha Tournaments’ Brine Beach LAX Festival.

Worcester County Recreation Center’s 50,000 square feet of indoor space includes a four-lane track and pole vault, high jump and long jump facilities. It can accommodate four 84’ x 50’  basketball courts or six volleyball courts, and provides concession areas, meeting rooms and officials’ locker rooms, seating for 800 and plentiful free parking. It hosts the annual JVA-sanctioned Beachfest volleyball tournament, with 200 teams and 2,500 athletes, and the American Youth Basketball Association National Championships’ 900 competitors.   SDM


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