The Heart of Sports | Sports Destination Management

The Heart of Sports

Nov 01, 2023 | By: Cindy Cantrell

While the Midwest  has long been considered Americaís most friendly region, anecdotal evidence was replaced by hard data in a 2013 study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. After analyzing the personality traits of nearly 1.6 million Americans, University of Cambridge researchers determined that Midwesterners are also more likely to be volunteer-oriented, with "moderately high levels of  extroversion, agreeableness and conscientiousness."

Combining residents’ trademark warmth and hospitality with the region’s reputation for affordability, stunning vistas and a reverence for sports translates into a winning destination for any sporting event. Following is a sampling of standouts throughout America’s Heartland.

Overland Park, Kansas

Overland Park, Kansas | Courtesy of Visit Overland Park
Overland Park, Kansas | Courtesy of Visit Overland Park

Overland Park, Kansas is home to world-class facilities that host recreational leagues to regional and national tournaments. Fully equipped venues offering expertly maintained playing surfaces are conveniently located near dining, lodging and entertainment so families can relax after a long day of play.

Spanning 96 acres, Scheels Overland Park Soccer Complex

offers 12 lighted, regulation-size synthetic turf fields for soccer, lacrosse and Ultimate disc events, along with a clubhouse, concessions and playgrounds. Right across the street, Blue Valley Recreation Complex is home to 24 irrigated baseball/softball fields.

Elite Tennis and Wellness, which hosted the Professional Pickleball Association (PPA) Kansas City Open in August, features nine lighted indoor/outdoor tennis courts and four lighted indoor/outdoor pickleball courts, with flexibility to convert to an additional 18 pickleball courts.

“Combine this with our easily accessible airport, it’s clear why we’ve had every sport from cheer and dance competitions to volleyball, lacrosse, baseball, softball, soccer, pickleball, football and more,” said Eric Olson, vice president of sports and events for Visit Overland Park.

Hamilton County, Indiana

Hamilton County, Indiana | Courtesy of Hamilton County Sports Authority
Hamilton County, Indiana | Courtesy of Hamilton County Sports Authority

Located minutes from Indianapolis International Airport, Hamilton County is a premier sports destination offering championship-caliber facilities for all competitive levels.

The 400-acre Grand Park Sports Campus, home of the Indianapolis Colts Training Camp, boasts 31 multi-purpose fields for soccer, football, rugby, field hockey and lacrosse; 26 outdoor diamonds for baseball and softball; eight indoor basketball/volleyball courts; and three full-size indoor soccer fields.

The county is equally dedicated to golf, offering manicured, affordable courses close enough to play 36 holes in one day. For example, the 18-hole championship course and 9-hole executive course at Chatham Hills offer distinctly different tests with shared scenic views.

Carl Daniels, director of the Hamilton County Sports Authority, said tournament planners have access to an array of support services to ensure the success of any event.

“In a community filled with top-notch venues,” Daniels said, “everyone from youth to professional athletes enjoys competing in championship-caliber facilities throughout Hamilton County, Indiana.”

DuPage County, Illinois

DuPage County, Illinois | Courtesy of Evan Schiller
DuPage County, Illinois | Courtesy of Evan Schiller

The unique blend of first-class facilities, urban amenities and small-town charm within DuPage County, Illinois offers a complete destination package.

By year’s end, the DuPage Sports Commission will have worked with 13 national governing bodies of sports and others to host numerous national events. Thousands of participants from across the globe have competed in cycling, swimming, powerlifting, water polo, bowling, artistic swimming, archery, weightlifting and more.

The area also has a deep golf history, as home of the first 18-hole golf course. Medinah Country Club will host the Presidents Cup in 2026, and the county has previously welcomed the Ryder Cup, PGA Championship, BMW Championship, Western Open, LPGA Solheim Cup and Korn Ferry Tour.

Just 20 miles west of downtown Chicago, DuPage County also boasts award-winning park districts and 25,000 acres of lush green spaces.

“DuPage County continues to build on its storied tradition of sports,” said Igor Bakovic, director of sports for the DuPage Sports Commission.

Cedar Point Sports Center

Cedar Point Sports Center, Sandusky, Ohio | Courtesy of Chris Lewis
Cedar Point Sports Center, Sandusky, Ohio | Courtesy of Chris Lewis

Located in Sandusky, Ohio, the state-of-the-art Cedar Point Sports Center was built with the athlete in mind.

The 145,000-square-foot center features hardwood floors that can convert from 10 high school regulation-size basketball courts to 20 regulation-size volleyball courts. Other amenities include a championship arena with retractable seating, a 9,500-square-foot entertainment center, meeting and event spaces, onsite-site café and concessions.

In addition to adult sports, youth leagues, camps and clinics, special events this year alone include the North Coast Cheer and Dance Championships, Turkey Stuffer youth basketball tournament, 5v5 Soccer and Jingle Bell Jam. Families also enjoy rock climbing walls, a ninja course and indoor track.

According to Jake Schwerer, director of marketing and sales for Cedar Point Sports Center, each event is carefully executed with optimal skill and excellence.

“We have the space and amenities to take your event to the next level,” Schwerer said.

Champaign-Urbana, Illinois

Champaign-Urbana, Illinois | Courtesy of Experience Champaign-Urbana
Champaign-Urbana, Illinois | Courtesy of Experience Champaign-Urbana

Ideally situated in the heart of the Midwest, the Champaign-Urbana area has the state-of-the-art facilities and experience to make any event a success.

Memorial Stadium at the University of Illinois accommodates more than 60,000. State Farm Center, an architectural icon on campus, seats up to 16,500 for Fighting Illini basketball, concerts and community events.

Featuring eight championship courts, 12 lighted courts and an indoor facility, the Atkins Tennis Center & Khan Outdoor Complex hosted the 2022 NCAA Tennis Championships. Champaign County has additionally welcomed the NCAA Gymnastics Championships, National Intercollegiate Wheelchair Basketball Tournament, Christie Clinic Illinois Marathon, Gameday USA Baseball, Illinois Futbol Club, Chiefs Classic Ice Hockey Tournament and Illinois High School Association Basketball and Wrestling State Championships.

“We set the bar with our renowned Midwest hospitality, arts and culture, scenic outdoor spaces and award-winning culinary scene which ensure a ‘Brilliant’ experience,” said Caitlyn Floyd, director of sales and international travel at Experience Champaign-Urbana.

Fort Wayne, Indiana

Fort Wayne, Indiana | Courtesy of Visit Fort Wayne
Fort Wayne, Indiana | Courtesy of Visit Fort Wayne

It’s easy to see why Fort Wayne, Indiana has been named the top city for minor league sports.

Parkview Field is home to the TinCaps, the High-A affiliate of the San Diego Padres. The Komets, an ECHL affiliate of the Colorado Avalanche, have played since 1952 at Allen County War Memorial Coliseum, also the site of the NCAA Division III Men’s Basketball National Championship through 2026.

Plassman Athletic Center at Turnstone is one of nine Olympic/Paralympic training sites and one of three dedicated adaptive facilities in the U.S., offering competitive goalball, wheelchair basketball, wheelchair rugby, power soccer, track and field, sled hockey, boccia and other programs.

Other opportunities to be active include golfing at 17 public courses, skating at SportONE/Parkview Icehouse, biking 100 miles of trails and kayaking on the city’s three rivers.

“Whether you prefer to take to the field or watch from the sidelines, you’ll have endless options through Fort Wayne’s outstanding sports scene,” said Jazmin Zavala, sports sales manager at Visit Fort Wayne.

Edmond, Oklahoma

Edmond, Oklahoma | Courtesy of City of Edmond
Edmond, Oklahoma | Courtesy of City of Edmond

KickingBird Golf may be the oldest course in Edmond, Oklahoma, but a two-year, $21 million renovation and expansion has redefined the municipal facility beyond the traditional golf audience.

The course is the first in Oklahoma serviced by TrackMan Range, meaning golfers can log in through a mobile app and track shots while practicing. Other state-of-the-art amenities include a covered and open driving range with a 57,000-square-foot hitting area, a 13,384-square-foot clubhouse and a 144-seat special events center. Non-golf attractions include The Lookout restaurant and a “turn bar” offering to-go choices from a covered patio.

The venue will host the 2024 NCAA Men’s Division II Super Regional and 2025 NCAA Women’s Division II Super Regional, as well as regular events including the Oklahoma Golf Association State Junior Championship and collegiate, high school and fund-raising tournaments.

“This transformational renovation has truly created something for everyone to enjoy,” said Jennifer Thornton, tourism director for Visit Edmond.

Akron/Summit County, Ohio

Akron/Summit County, Ohio | Courtesy of Akron/Summit Convention & Visitors Bureau
Akron/Summit County, Ohio | Courtesy of Akron/Summit Convention & Visitors Bureau

First-class facilities complemented by family-friendly activities make Akron/Summit County, Ohio an ideal destination for sports events.

The county is home to the OHSAA Double Play State Softball and Baseball Championships, the 2024 MAC & GMAC Softball Championships, Akron Marathon Race Series, PBA Tournament of Champions and Kaulig Companies Golf Championship.

State-of-the-art venues include Firestone Stadium, Rubber City Sports at Goodyear Gym and facilities for football, basketball, volleyball, baseball, softball, swimming and diving, soccer, golf, rifle and track and field at the University of Akron.

After hours, athletes and their families can visit Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Akron Art Museum, Akron RubberDucks and Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens.

“We are committed to creating a unique experience for our sports teams and their families,” said Cindy Coontz, senior sales manager for the Sports Alliance of Greater Akron-Akron/Summit Convention & Visitors Bureau. “Easily accessible and close to both Akron/Canton Airport and Cleveland Hopkins International Airport, we are an affordable destination and look forward to hosting your next sporting event.” SDM

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