While much of the rest of the United States attracts sporting events by building facilities, the mountain region of the Western U.S. has much of its sporting infrastructure built in by nature, thanks to the Rocky Mountains and other ranges such as the Laramie, Bighorn, San Juan and Sangre de Cristo mountains. Mountain region counties, towns and CVBs can offer event organizers an enticing mix of natural beauty, affordable accommodations, varied sporting facilities and plenty of activities for the off-hours.
Following are some highlights of mountain region destinations ready and willing to help you build and manage the best sporting event possible.
Boise, a city set on a river where the desert meets the Rocky Mountains, has both natural and manmade opportunities for sports. It’s famous for Idaho Steelheads hockey, Boise State football, Bruneau Sand Dunes State Park, fly fishing on the Boise River and outdoor activities on the Boise River Greenbelt.
“Soccer and softball are our biggest drivers, but we host almost every sport out there,” said Taylor Williamson of the Boise CVB.
Venues include Simplot Sports Complex for youth soccer and baseball with 20 soccer fields and 15 baseball fields; Willow Lane Sports Complex for softball with six lighted fields; and the 5,000-seat CenturyLink Arena inside the Grove Hotel for hockey, basketball, gymnastics, volleyball and more.
For the off-hours, Bogus Basin Ski Resort is nearby, as well as Zoo Boise, the World Center for Birds of Prey, the Idaho Botanical Garden, and a variety of downtown museums, as well as hotel and dining options to fit every budget.
Grand Junction, Colorado
Grand Junction has numerous venues, both natural and man-made, according to Jennifer Stoll of the Greater Grand Junction Sports Commission.
“We are surrounded by nearly 10,000 miles of trail systems that span the alpine region and the high mountain desert,” she noted.
Grand Junction is best known as the home of the Alpine Bank Junior College World Series, but it features year-round opportunities from trail running to mountain biking. In addition, there’s a state-of-the-art natatorium at Colorado Mesa University, which also boasts a large soccer and lacrosse stadium. The area also has a dual football and baseball complex, Stocker Stadium and Suplizio Field, respectively.
There is much to do in the after-hours as well. Nearby is the stunning Colorado National Monument, unique eateries, craft breweries, local wineries and adventure activities.
Kalispell is home to the Kidsports complex, a 126-acre complex with 30 fields set against a dramatic backdrop of mountains. The complex is popular with regional, statewide and Canadian teams, particularly for soccer and baseball. There is also Miracle Field, an athletic facility designed for adaptive sports.
Kalispell is home to the Northwest Montana Fairgrounds, which offers space for indoor events, most notably the Montana Indoor Soccer Championship. Nearby is Legends Field, hosting football games and track meets. Kalispell also has the Event at Rebecca Farm, home to the largest eventing equestrian competition in the country.
“Eventing is an equestrian event where a single horse and rider combination competes against other combinations across the three disciplines of dressage, cross-country and show jumping,” said Diane Medler of Discover Kalispell.
Kalispell’s location just outside Glacier National Park is ideal for outdoor sports. Flathead Lake is home to the Montana Dragon Boat festival. There are also two hockey facilities for tournaments: one indoor and one outdoor. It features 20 hotels for different budgets and a downtown area with restaurants and shopping.
Kino Sports Complex, Pima County, Arizona
Kino Sports Complex covers 155 acres in Tucson and is the largest professional sports and entertainment venue in Pima County. With a view of the Santa Catalina Mountains, it’s a natural fit for amateur and professional events. The facility is available for leagues, clinics and tournaments. While soccer, baseball and football are the primary sports, rugby and softball are close seconds.
“The current Kino Sports Complex was a former Major League Baseball spring training facility for the Chicago White Sox and the Arizona Diamondbacks,” said Reenie Ochoa of the Pima County Stadium District/Kino Sports Complex.
The complex includes Veterans Memorial Stadium, an 11,000-plus-seat stadium with four clubhouses, concessions, a press box and other amenities. Adjacent to the stadium are four lighted and three additional full-size fields, two half-fields, batting cages and pitching practice areas.
The Kino North Complex consists of a lighted soccer stadium with seating for 3,500, a lighted grandstand field, four additional fields, clubhouse space, a gym, meeting rooms and concessions. Within five miles are restaurants, movie theaters, golf courses, malls, museums and casinos.
Ruidoso, New Mexico
Ruidoso Village in the Sacramento Mountains offers a variety of activities from skiing (Ski Apache) to horse racing at the Ruidoso Downs Racetrack. For team sports, the village has three lighted multi-use softball/baseball fields, two high school baseball fields and a tee-ball/softball/baseball field. Ruidoso currently hosts 13 tournaments from May through October. USSSA events include men’s and women’s slow-pitch, a senior tournament, youth baseball, youth fastpitch and co-ed slowpitch.
The region also hosts marathons and 5Ks, mountain trail runs and mountain bike races against the backdrop of the Rocky Mountains. It’s surrounded by the Lincoln National Forest, with hiking, mountain biking and ATV tours and two lakes for fishing and kayaking. Nearby is the World Renown Inn of the Mountain Gods Casino and Resort and other diversions, according to Rodney Griego of Ruidoso Parks and Recreation.
“We have many special outdoor events including the All-American Country Music Festival, Brewdoso and other beer, wine and music events, and craft festivals held on weekends throughout the year,” he said.
St. George, Utah
The big three sports for St. George are baseball, soccer and softball. The region has 16 softball complexes with a total of 33 fields; nine baseball complexes with a total of 19 fields; and 15 soccer complexes with 28 fields as well as infrastructure for swimming, football, golf, tennis, basketball, indoor and sand volleyball, mountain biking and pickleball.
Each event brings in a wide variety of participants and spectators. The Huntsman World Senior Games features more than 30 sports and activities, from bridge to road races to swimming to square dancing and attracts 11,000 participants.
For the after-hours, there is boating, water skiing, paddle boarding and fishing.
“Right now, we have roughly 6,000 rooms in the county with another 500 in the pipeline,” said Doug Boyer of Washington County Tourism. “As far as dining goes, there is lots of dining all in the downtown area of St. George and in Springdale, including excellent little ‘hole in the wall’ places.”
Sheridan has earned a reputation as an outdoor mecca.
“The Bighorn Mountains are a major destination for rock and ice climbing, kayaking, canoeing, fishing, cross-country skiing, mountain biking, trail running, hunting, motorsports and more,” said Shawn Parker of Sheridan Travel and Tourism.
Venues in Sheridan include the M&M’s Center hockey arena, Golden Dome at Sheridan College (basketball, volleyball); the Big Horn Equestrian Center (polo and soccer); Antelope Butte Mountain Recreation Area (skiing, snowboarding, fat biking, mountain biking, running); Cutler Hill Trails; Throne Rider Stadium for baseball; Black Tooth Park for soccer and the Sheridan County Fairgrounds for rodeo and equestrian events. There are more than 30 hotels and dozens of restaurants as well.
Spearfish, South Dakota
Situated in the Black Hills, Spearfish is known for its mountain bike races, including the Dakota Five-O, a 50-mile single track race; 28 Below, a 28-mile fat tire race, and the Gold Rush Gravel Grinder. There are winter sports events, too, including cross-country skiing and snowshoeing in the Black Hills Forest. The region also attracts non-traditional sports such as disc golf and pickleball, according to Brian Gebhart of Visit Spearfish.
“Currently, there are two outdoor pickleball courts under construction, and two existing disc golf courses,” he said. “There are two golf courses as well as soccer and baseball fields, and facilities at nearby Black Hills State University.”
Spearfish has 10 hotel properties, B&Bs, motels and rentals, as well as approximately 50 restaurants and three breweries. It’s home to the DC Booth National Historic Fish Hatchery, an active trout hatchery, museum and national archives, and the High Plains Western Heritage Center. Both Devil’s Tower and Mount Rushmore are just over an hour’s drive away. SDM