Head for the Mountains
20 Mar, 2017By: Kathleen A. DeMarco
Natural or Man-Made, Venues Can Take Events to New Heights
PURPLE MOUNTAIN MAJESTIES, BIG SKIES and visitor-friendly venues make the mountain region of the U.S. a natural for sports events. Event owners looking for an altitude adjustment will find that – and much more – in these peaks and valleys.
“Billings is a great place to compete and celebrate,” says Alex Tyson of Visit Billings. “We lead in state and regional events, with 5,000 hotel rooms, convenient air service and trailhead access to Big Sky Country.”
Home to the 2017 and 2018 NAIA Division I Women’s National Basketball Championships and the annual Montana High School Association’s All Class State Wrestling Tournament, MetraPark Rimrock Auto Arena seats 10,000 for basketball, wrestling, hockey, rodeo, boxing and indoor football. Billings SportsPlex offers indoor turf fields, sprint track and basketball courts.
Dehler Park’s multi-use stadium is home to MiLB’s Billings Mustangs and Montana State University Billings’ Yellowjackets. Amend Park hosts soccer, lacrosse, rugby and NCAA DII West Region Cross Country Championships. Montana State University-Billings and Rocky Mountain College add more outdoor venues, and have worked together to host the 2015 GNAC Men’s and Women’s Basketball Championships.
Running is big in the Big Sky State: the Boston-qualifier Montana Marathon, 8,000-competitor Montana Women’s Run, and the Heart & Sole 5K regional RRCA qualifier all take place in greater Billings.
Casper emphasizes outdoor venues for mountain biking, skiing, snowshoeing, running and dogsledding competitions. The North Platte River, flowing through downtown, earned Casper the title of American Angler Magazine’s “#1 Big Fish Destination in the World.
"What sets Casper apart is its unique geography and outdoor venues,” says John Giantonio, Director of Casper Sports Alliance. “We’re within a few hours’ drive from Denver, Salt Lake City and Rapid City, making Casper an easy drive for competitors and fans.”
Home to the College National Finals Rodeo, NJCAA Division I Women’s Volleyball National Championships and the Casper Mountain Challenge endurance mountain bike races, Casper’s venues include the 10,000-seat Casper Events Center, the 12-field Casper Soccer Complex and the Field of Dreams Baseball/Softball Complex with 13 fields, including a 4,500-seat stadium field. Casper Mountain Biathlon Complex adds a 30-point world-class biathlon and multi-sport venue.
In August 2017, adventure racing lands Casper on the map as it hosts the Adventure Racing World Championship. Fifty teams from 30 countries will compete for six days and cross the finish line in Casper.
Gillette-Campbell County, Wyoming
Gillette, the Campbell County seat in northeastern Wyoming, has ranches and rodeos, abundant wildlife and a wealth of venues for sports events.
“State-of-the-art facilities, wide-open spaces, big blue sky and abundant wildlife make Gillette the perfect host that offers an experience to remember,” says Terry Sjolin, Sales Manager for Campbell County Convention & Visitors Bureau. Visitors enjoy proximity to Devil’s Tower, Mount Rushmore, the Big Horn Mountains and Black Hills National Forest.
The CAM-PLEX Multi-Event Facilities feature a racetrack, regulation hockey rink and rodeo grounds that annually host the 1,600-contestant National High School Finals Rodeo. Nearby, Bicentennial Park’s five softball fields combined with Energy Capital Sports Complex’s four 215-foot fast pitch synthetic fields to host the 2015 ASA National Fast-Pitch Softball Tournament and the 2016 Wyoming ASA Softball Tournament.
Campbell County Recreation Center offers a 190,000-square-foot facility featuring three basketball courts, four racquetball courts, an indoor 200-meter track and five indoor tennis courts.
Colorado Springs, Colorado
Known as Olympic City USA, Colorado Springs offers world-class competition sites nestled amid the Colorado Rockies.
“Getting here couldn’t be easier either by car or air, and our region offers 14,500 hotel rooms to fit every group size and budget,” says Cheryl McCullough, director of sports and special events for Colorado Springs Convention & Visitors Bureau.
Colorado Springs Olympic Training Center hosts swimming, shooting, gymnastics, judo, weightlifting and wrestling; the 35-acre complex can accommodate 500 athletes in its dormitory facilities.
Memorial Park houses three lighted baseball diamonds, 15 soccer/football fields, 12 tennis courts, six sand volleyball courts, two 5K trails, an aquatics center and the Velodrome, the official training site for US Track Cycling and Roller Sports. The Velodrome’s 333.3-meter cement cycling track circles a 200-meter roller sports track which will host the 2017 Outdoor Speed Skating National Championships banked track races.
Youth event options in Colorado Springs include El Pomar Youth Sports Complex for baseball, softball, soccer, lacrosse and hockey and Leon Young Youth Sports Complex for fast-pitch softball and baseball.
North of Denver, 50 miles east of the Rockies, and at the crossroads of major highways, the City of Greeley is accessible, affordable and friendly for sports events.
“Greeley can accommodate just about any kind of sports. Our fields and facilities have welcomed Senior and Special Olympians, regional and state tournaments for high school and collegiate sports and motorized contests such as motocross,” said Amy Dugan, Visit Greeley director at the Greeley Chamber of Commerce.
Greeley boasts 37 multi-use fields for soccer, football and volleyball and 16 tennis courts, spanning two parks. Two championship public golf courses and an ice arena for both hockey and figure skating competitions are available.
The University of Northern Colorado offers facilities for team sports, plus a team-building ropes course. Triple Crown Baseball’s Northern Colorado Fall Classic will be held at UNC’s fields in August 2017, attracting high school age teams from Colorado and surrounding states.
Henderson has been named a Sports Illustrated Sportstown by SI and the National Recreation and Park Association.
“Our average temperature of 63 degrees, 900 daily flights, 4,000 attractively-priced hotel rooms and family-friendly entertainment make Henderson the place to get your game on,” says Nicole Johnson, public relations coordinator for Henderson Department of Tourism.
Arroya Grande Sports Complex, named three-time Outstanding Park by the National Softball Association, has nine lighted ball fields, lighted basketball courts and a disc golf course. Heritage Park and Aquatic Complex adds 15 multi-purpose fields and a 14-lane, 25-yard competitive lap pool with spectator seating for 600.
Whitney Mesa BMX Track is a USA BMX-sanctioned downhill track with asphalt turns, a wall ride, pump track/jump track and strider course.
Henderson has hosted numerous triathlon, Ironman and World’s Toughest Mudder events, the World Tenpin Bowling World Championships, USA Water Polo National League Championships and the annual Rose Regatta Dragon Boat Races on Lake Las Vegas.
Ruidoso, New Mexico
Ruidoso Parks & Recreation Department’s 100 miles of mountain biking and competitive running trails and acres of irrigated turf fields bring the heat when it comes to hosting athletic events.
North Park, White Mountain Recreation Complex and Eagle Creek Sports Complex host football, soccer, baseball and pickleball events, including the Elk Wood Bat Baseball Classic Tournament and Adult Soccer State of New Mexico Championships; a 100-competitor Pickleball Tournament is set for June 2017.
Grindstone Disc Golf Course, in Grindstone Canyon, hosts the annual State of New Mexico Disc Golf Championships and the “Full Moon” Glow-In-the-Dark disc golf tournament. Grindstone Trails’ 18 miles of multi-use trails are the scene of the annual Ruidoso Marathon and Ruidoso Grindstone Trail Runs.
Equidistant to Salt Lake City, Jackson Hole and Sun Valley, and to Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks, Pocatello is a draw for participants looking to combine competition and vacation.
“Our newest sports venue is Mountain View Event Center (The MEC), specifically designed to attract mid-size events,” said Birgetta Bright, Tourism Administrator for Visit Pocatello. “While we have Holt Arena for large events, we needed another multi-purpose venue for events that wouldn’t fill the stadium.”
The MEC’s 40,000-foot space offers 28,000 feet of open floor space, accommodating three regulation basketball courts with spectator seating, locker rooms, concessions and conference facilities.
Holt Arena, on campus at Idaho State University, is an indoor multi-use facility that seats 12,000 for football and 8,000 for basketball. It hosts USA Wrestling’s Western Regionals and the Simplot Games, bringing over 2,000 high school indoor track and field competitors to Pocatello annually.
Also new in Pocatello are H&R Roller Hockey inline rink and the 80-acre Portneuf Wellness Complex with six full-size, multi-use sports fields, two basketball courts and a mountain biking park. SDM