The Mountain Region: From Ancient Origins to Modern Tourism | Sports Destination Management

The Mountain Region: From Ancient Origins to Modern Tourism

Mar 01, 2023 | By: Cindy Cantrell

Once a sacred home  to Paleo-Indians and numerous Native American tribes, the Mountain Region is a jewel of natural biodiversity and model of rapid economic and social change fueled by emerging industries around mining, forestry and recreation. The region is now a top tourist destination, drawing millions of visitors annually for sightseeing, national park exploration and all manner of outdoor sports and adventures.

Colorado Springs, Colorado

Colorado Springs, Colorado | Photo courtesy of Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC
Colorado Springs, Colorado | Photo courtesy of Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC

Known as Olympic City USA, Colorado Springs, Colorado offers majestic scenery as well as unique sites and facilities to make any event successful and memorable.

The state-of-the-art Ed Robson Arena accommodates 3,400 fans who cheer on the Colorado College Tigers. Weidner Field, home of the Colorado Springs Switchbacks Football Club, offers more than 111,500 square feet of indoor and outdoor event space for up to 15,000 attendees, with scenic views of Pikes Peak, the Rocky Mountains and the vibrant downtown.

High-altitude events abound, including The Broadmoor Winter Polo Classic in February, USA Weightlifting Nationals in June, the NFR Open at the Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo in July and, for the first time, the World Jump Rope Championships, also in July.

“From sports fields to city parks, specialty venues to complexes, Colorado Springs has the perfect match for your match,” says Cheryl McCullough, Senior Director of Sports and Events for Visit Colorado Springs.

Surprise, Arizona

Surprise, Arizona | Photo courtesy of City of Surprise
Surprise, Arizona | Photo courtesy of City of Surprise

The panoramic Sonoran desert landscape of Surprise, Arizona sets the stage for its vibrant sports scene.

Ranked the No. 1 Spring Training Stadium in Arizona by USA Today, Surprise Stadium is the spring training home of the Kansas City Royals and Texas Rangers. In addition, college baseball tournaments draw teams nationwide, while Ottawa University calls Surprise home for its range of varsity sports.

The Surprise Tennis & Racquet Complex features 25 tennis courts, 16 pickleball courts and two full-size indoor racquetball courts. As one of the Southwest’s largest tennis complexes, it hosts many USTA National Championships each spring, as well as junior, college, senior and league tournaments year-round.

The city’s all-star lineup also includes several golf courses, an urban fishing lake, festivals, White Tank Mountain Regional Park and Wildlife World Zoo, Aquarium & Safari Park.

“With our exceptional community amenities and range of dining, retail and entertainment options, it’s easy to ‘find your Surprise,’” says Kendra Pettis, the city’s sports and tourism director.

Gillette, Wyoming

Gillette, Wyoming | Photo courtesy of Campbell County Convention & Visitors Bureau
Gillette, Wyoming | Photo courtesy of Campbell County Convention & Visitors Bureau

If you can play it, Gillette, Wyoming can host it.

Premier venues include Energy Capital Sports Complex, a modern baseball and softball facility on 320 acres of high-tech turf with four competitive fields, three multi-purpose fields and an ADA-compliant playground with splash pad.

The 1,000-acre CAM-PLEX can hold dance, boxing, pickleball and equestrian events — all in the same afternoon. The state-of-the-art venue, site of the 2022-23 National High School Finals Rodeo, is surrounded by outdoor rodeo grounds, running trails and generous space for spectators.

In addition, Gillette and Wright offer three golf courses as challenging as they are scenic. The Campbell County Recreation Center is home to a NCAA Division I-rated indoor track and Gillette has one of only two Olympic-sized swimming and diving pools in the state.

“Gillette is excited and ready to help you plan a memorable experience, both on and off the field,” says Jessica Seders, executive director of Campbell County Convention & Visitors Bureau and Gillette Main Street.

Boise, Idaho

Boise, Idaho, Greater Boise Aquatic Center | Photo courtesy of Idaho Competitive

While Boise, Idaho is best known for its iconic blue turf, visitors can cheer on its sports teams in all seasons.

The 5,000-seat Idaho Central Arena is home to Front Street Fights mixed martial arts, Idaho Steelheads hockey and numerous arena football, indoor soccer, motocross, gymnastics and basketball competitions. In March, for example, the arena will host the Big Sky Men’s and Women’s Basketball Championships for the fifth time in an eight-year run.

The highly anticipated opening of the Greater Boise Aquatic Center will provide opportunities for championship-level swimming in the eight-lane, 50-meter competition pool, as well as promote swim safety and lessons in the six-lane, 25-yard pool.

“Boise’s new aquatic center will enable us to host high-profile regional and national events,” says Lucas Gebhart, sports sales manager for the Boise Convention and Visitors Bureau. “We can’t wait for it to open this spring.”

Sioux Falls, South Dakota

Sioux Falls, South Dakota | Photo courtesy of Sanford Pentagon
Sioux Falls, South Dakota | Photo courtesy of Sanford Pentagon

With a convenient location in the heart of the Midwest, Sioux Falls boasts prestigious venues with competitions and amenities more often found in larger markets.

The 500-acre Sanford Sports Complex features a 3,250-seat arena, nine basketball/volleyball courts and 18 fields for baseball/softball and soccer/lacrosse. In September, the Cinch Playoffs (the richest rodeo in South Dakota history) will offer ProRodeo athletes a $1 million payout at the Denny Sanford Premier Center. In 2024, the Girls Tier II 14U division of the USA Hockey Youth, Girls and High School National Championships will take place at SCHEELS IcePlex.

According to Brandon Vant Hul, sales manager of Experience Sioux Falls, sports event planners appreciate the ability to keep costs and travel time low. Another draw is the area’s proximity to other large Midwest markets such as Minneapolis, Fargo, Omaha, Des Moines and Kansas City.

“Sioux Falls is ready to step up and claim its rightful place as a ‘you need to be there’ sporting destination,” he says.

Ogden, Utah

Ogden, Utah | Photo courtesy of Visit Ogden
Ogden, Utah | Photo courtesy of Visit Ogden

Renowned for its picturesque, rugged terrain and temperate weather, Ogden, Utah is the ideal site for competition and adventure alike.

From June 22-24, Triple Crown Baseball will host the Best of the West Finale at sites including Miles Goodyear Park, which features two baseball fields with new turf infields. The Utah Spartan Trifecta Weekend will take place on July 8-9 at Snowbasin Resort, home of the 2002 Olympic Winter Games.

Next up is the Triple Crown Fastpitch World Series at multiple venues from July 10-15. From September 5-9, the Highlander will treat hikers to iconic viewpoints on 30- and 60-mile journeys throughout the mountains of the northern Wasatch Range.

“If you’re looking for the perfect location to host a high adventure event or youth sports tournament, you’ve found it here,” says Millie Stewart, director of sales for Visit Ogden. “In addition to our breathtaking scenery, Ogden offers a vibrant downtown, a local volunteer organization and a community ready to rally.”

Grand Junction, Colorado

Grand Junction, Colorado | Photo courtesy of Chandler Cole
Grand Junction, Colorado | Photo courtesy of Chandler Cole

Grand Junction in western Colorado is ideal for outdoor adventures year-round.

The high-desert climate allows world-class trail access10 months out of the year, while the 11,000-foot Grand Mesa is home to downhill and cross-country skiing during winter months. Cycling has emerged as another top sport, with excellent riding and events available for all disciplines.

Road cyclists enjoy breathtaking views of the Colorado National Monument during the Tour of the Moon. Gravel enthusiasts favor Co2uT, a challenging race across state lines and the wild desert. The USA BMX Nationals takes place at Grand Valley BMX, and mountain-bikers embrace the Palisade Plunge, Kokopelli trails and Grand Junction Rides & Vibes Mountain Bike and Music Festival.

“This incredible event starts in Grand Junction and then attacks the infamous Lunch Loops Trail System, returning downtown to the festival,” says Ben Snyder, executive director of the Greater Grand Junction Sports Commission. “If you ride, Grand Junction is the place to be.”

Casper, Wyoming

Casper, Wyoming | Photo courtesy of Visit Casper
Casper, Wyoming | Photo courtesy of Visit Casper

Casper is home to unmatched opportunities to enjoy the best of Wyoming’s open spaces.

Casper Mountain Trails Center serves as a trailhead for numerous fat bike, Nordic skiing and snowshoe trails. Another local favorite for the growing sport of fat biking is Eadsville Trail, which is ideal for beginners to gain confidence along the wide main roads while experts appreciate the tight corners and natural jumps.

Casper Mountain, which offers 32 miles of regularly groomed trails as well as extensive ungroomed areas, offers snowshoeing, snowmobiling, snowboarding and cross-country and downhill skiing. The Ford Wyoming Center is home to the Professional Bull Riders Tour, College National Finals Rodeo, monster truck events and Wyoming state basketball, wrestling, volleyball, spirit and dance competitions.

Casper’s stunning landscapes also host some of the region’s best blue-ribbon fishing, hiking, biathlete competitions and sightseeing.

“You’re never far from your next adventure in Casper, Wyoming,” says Luke Gilliam, business development manager of Visit Casper. SDM

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