The distinct terrain of the Mountain region alternates between towering mountain peaks, scattered desert lands and expansive rolling plains, with diverse climates to match. This array of options equips sports event planners with limitless opportunities for outdoor (and even indoor) recreation and family adventure, regardless of the season.
Colorado Springs, Colorado
Colorado Springs is known as Olympic City USA for a reason. It’s home to unrivaled sports culture and world-class venues like the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Training Center and U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Museum. Two more venues, Weidner Field and Robson Arena, have offered additional competition and event space downtown since opening in 2021.
The Pikes Peak region has events that can’t be found anywhere else, like The Broadmoor Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, Pikes Peak APEX Mountain Bike Challenge and Pikes Peak Marathon. This July, the historic Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo will host the NFR Open with a $1 million prize purse.
“Whether you’re visiting the area or planning an event, our variety of sports venues offer the space and facilities for world-class events,” says Cheryl McCullough, senior director of sports and events for Visit Colorado Springs. “You can’t beat the spectacular mountain views and Olympic spirit.”
The warm sunshine, panoramic mountain vistas and uniquely Sonoran nature contribute to an all-star lineup that draws athletes, families and spectators year after year to the first-class sports venues of Surprise, Arizona.
Every March, Surprise Stadium hosts the Kansas City Royals and Texas Rangers for spring training. The Surprise Tennis & Racquet Complex, home of a USTA Pro Circuit event and numerous national tournaments, offers pickleball and racquetball in addition to youth and adult tennis programs.
Family-friendly destinations include the Wildlife World Zoo and Aquarium & Safari Park. The White Tank Mountain Regional Park contains ancient petroglyphs.
“The city of Surprise has made a significant commitment to providing sports and tourism events with the highest level of service,” says Kendra Pettis, the city’s sports and tourism director. “Our community amenities and businesses provide the opportunity for an unforgettable experience for visitors with scenic views, outdoor recreation and a variety of dining and entertainment opportunities.”
Gillette, Wyoming is home to premier sports venues, all staffed by experienced professionals who know what it takes to host a successful tournament or competition.
The Energy Capital Sports Complex, one of Wyoming’s newest and most modern baseball and softball facilities, features 320 acres of high-tech turf with four competitive fields, three multi-purpose fields, batting cages, ADA-compliant playground and splash pad. Set on more than 1,000 acres, the CAM-PLEX Multi-Event Facilities can host dance, boxing, pickleball and rodeos — all in the same afternoon.
The Campbell County Recreation Center is home to a NCAA Division I-rated indoor track. The three golf courses in Gillette and Wright are as challenging as they are scenic, and Gillette has one of only two Olympic-size swimming and diving pools in Wyoming.
“If you can play it,” says Jessica Seders, executive director of Campbell County Convention & Visitors Bureau and Gillette Main Street, “Gillette can host it.”
Adventure is around every corner in Boise, Idaho.
Albertsons Stadium, known for its blue turf, is home of Boise State University football and the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. Idaho Central Arena puts on the Big Sky Men’s & Women’s Basketball Championships.
The NCAA’s March Madness tournament has played at ExtraMile Arena multiple times, while Simplot Sports Complex is a seven-time host of the US Youth Soccer Far West Regional Championships. A new aquatic center will soon be ready to welcome the largest swim meets in the Northwest.
Lucas Gebhart, sports sales manager of the Boise Convention & Visitors Bureau, says visitors appreciate the proximity of the airport to the compact, walkable downtown, as well as the first-class hiking trails in the Boise foothills.
“Boise is a safe, friendly and vibrant city with a love for the outdoors,” Gebhart says. “Meanwhile, you can get almost anywhere in 30 minutes or less. It’s one reason why people who visit end up moving here.”
Yankton, South Dakota
Yankton, South Dakota, headquarters of the National Field Archery Association (NFAA), is home of the largest archery center in the world. The 100-acre NFAA Easton Yankton Archery Center features three outdoor field courses, a 3D range, two FITA ranges, a 90-meter indoor range and the NFAA Foundation Archery Museum.
The center hosted the World Archery Championships, World Cup and World Archery Congress in September 2021, drawing 400 archers from more than 80 countries to the city. In recent years, the center has added air rifle, tennis and pickleball.
In January 2022, a $2.5 million capital campaign launched to develop the First Dakota Soccer Park. Plans call for seven soccer fields, a comfort station and an athletic training room.
Jay Gravholt, tourism director for Yankton Thrive, says the city’s range of sports facilities can accommodate any size practice, tournament or special event. “Come to Yankton and let us show off our fantastic South Dakota hospitality,” Gravholt adds.
Salt Lake City, Utah
Salt Lake City, Utah is a true sports destination, with more than 20 Olympic venues, ice rinks, BMX tracks, equestrian centers and F1 sports tracks, as well as parks and recreation centers to accommodate nearly any game.
Major events this year alone include the USA Fencing Junior Olympics, USA Volleyball Salt Lake City Showdown Girls Junior National Qualifier, US Quidditch Cup and Premier SuperCopa. In addition, the Utah Olympic Oval boasts more Olympic world records than anywhere else.
According to Sports Salt Lake managing director Clay Partain, the department further heightened focus on the athlete experience through the appointment of Caryn Bradshaw to director of services, promotions and athlete experiences in November 2021. Examples include customizing interactive events, providing a cooling station and distributing thousands of decks of cards at youth tournaments.
“Everything you do matters if you’re doing it with intention and purpose,” Partain says. “The substantial growth of sports tourism in Salt Lake indicates we’re doing great work.”
Austin, Minnesota has the exact right facility and space to host any event, regardless of the sport or season.
The Packer Dome, which is typically inflated from late November through April, offers a soccer field, walking track, two batting cages and the ability to play two collegiate-distanced softball games simultaneously.
There are six more soccer fields within Todd Park, as well as several individual fields. Other local parks and recreation spots offer nine regulation softball fields; five competition baseball fields, plus two youth fields; two 18-hole disc-golf courses, plus one family course opening in 2022; five sand volleyball courts; two ice arenas; a 10-lane, 50-meter competition pool; two full artificial turf fields; two natural grass turf fields; and eight regulation-sized tennis courts, two of which have pickleball lines.
“Our staff thinks of ourselves as colleagues to event planners,” said Nancy Schnable, executive director of Discover Austin, Minnesota. “Our knowledge of the area and partnership with local vendors can easily create success for everybody while working together for the same goal.”
Event owners are never far from their next adventure in Casper, Wyoming.
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.
Year after year, the city is voted among the top three best trout fishing destinations in the world. Anglers of all skill levels discover success, adventure and beauty while fishing the North Platte River.
In addition, Casper Mountain provides miles of trails for the avid hiker, mountain biker, snowshoe enthusiast and skier. Hogadon Basin Ski Area is a haven for snowboarders, while biathletes find camaraderie along with friendly competition at the Casper Mountain Biathlon Club.
“Casper has long been a part of stories about the road to greatness,” says Luke Gilliam, business development manager of Visit Casper. “Casper is ready and excited to help you tell your story and create a one-of-a-kind event experience.” SDM