New Spaces, New Places, Expanding Markets | Sports Destination Management

New Spaces, New Places, Expanding Markets

Destinations for Your Consideration This Year
Dec 19, 2021 | By: Mary Helen Sprecher

If part of your 2022 game plan  was to keep your event fresh by seeking out a new destination or two, you need to bookmark this article. It includes some cities on the rise and some longtime favorites – and all of them should be on your radar for consideration when it comes to site selection. Here’s an armchair visit to each of them.

Arizona: Surprise

Surprise, Arizona is a sports-lovers dream, offering an abundance of sunshine, gorgeous mountain views, pristine sporting facilities and close proximity to a wide variety of amenities as part of the Phoenix Metro region. 

Surprise offers 15 Major League Baseball fields, 25 championship tennis courts and 16 pickleball courts. Plus, it’s home to Major League Baseball Spring Training for the Kansas City Royals and Texas Rangers. College athletics are also big in Surprise. Located in the heart of the city on the Civic Center campus, Ottawa University Arizona offers a full complement of collegiate athletics programs. Because of the location, the city and university have been able to collaborate on new facilities to support the needs of tournament directors, as well as the university’s athletic programs and city residents. 

These new shared campus facilities will help create opportunities to attract year-round activity. Multi-sport tournaments can be held at the new football/lacrosse stadium (turf), as well as at any of the three new indoor basketball/volleyball courts with brand-new locker room facilities. Surprise continues to work with the university and other key partners to develop the Sporting Complex with tournament needs in mind. 

Just this past year, as the Sporting Complex added these essential new facilities, it was proud to host tournaments with new and continuing partners such as the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA), Major League Baseball (MLB), National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), Prep Baseball Report (PBR), Perfect Game Baseball, United States Tennis Association (USTA), Wilson Premier Baseball and many others. 

California: Redding

Located in the heart of Northern California, the picturesque city of Redding is an outdoor sports recreation haven. Labeled as the sunniest city in California with 300 days of sunshine per year, Redding offers versatile sports venues for any event in any season.

In the past year, Redding has been voted the No. 6 Outdoor Adventure Sports Spot by SportsEvents Magazine for its world-class fishing and trout-filled waters, extensive trail system for hiking and biking, and the 11 nearby national and state parks offer endless room to roam without the crowds. Whiskeytown Lake and Shasta Lake are pristine and inviting for swimming, sailing or any kind of paddling, which is why TIME Magazine labeled Redding as the “unofficial capital of kayaking.”

Aside from the natural attractions, the Redding Soccer Park and the Big League Dreams Sports Complex offer 11 combined lighted and all-weather synthetic turf fields for year-round activity. Added to that, a 20,000-square-foot indoor field house at Big League Dreams hosts indoor soccer, hockey or basketball leagues and tournaments, which is one of the main reasons why Redding was voted California’s top destination for youth and amateur sports by SportsEvents Magazine.

More information is available at

Illinois: Chicago Northwest First Ascent Arlington Heights (FAAH)

First Ascent Climbing & Fitness will open a new world-class indoor climbing facility in Quarter 1 of 2022, in Arlington Heights, Illinois. This will be First Ascent’s largest location, with 45,000 square feet of climbing and fitness terrain and space for climbers of all ability levels; scaling up to 50 feet tall with auto belay, top rope, lead climbing as well as a dedicated bouldering and climbing training walls. 

Built by climbers for climbers of all ability levels and ages, First Ascent currently operates five gym locations in Illinois with more locations under development.

FAAH’s mission is to share its love for climbing with everyone, to connect people through movement and to create welcoming, uplifting spaces that strengthen minds, bodies and communities.

Connect with Meet Chicago Northwest to learn more about First Ascent and other locations in the region perfect for hosting adult and youth sporting events. A premier location offers easy access to/from O’Hare International Airport, 10,000 guest rooms, activities and dining for all ages, with free parking everywhere. Learn more about First Ascent at Click over to to see more about the Chicago Northwest region. 

Illinois: Rantoul

Rantoul, Illinois is vastly growing thanks to new sports facilities. In April of 2021, the Rantoul Family Sports Complex opened as a premier outdoor destination with eight baseball/softball fields, two Little League/Challenger fields and eight soccer/football multi-purpose fields. 

With all turf surfaces and plenty of amenities, the inaugural season hosted hundreds of teams every weekend since opening and will be back in March of 2022 with even more events planned. Rounding out the year of programming, Rantoul is welcoming a new indoor amateur motocross facility on the former Chanute Air Force Base, taking over a 218,000-square-foot hangar.

B-52 Hanger MX will host events on two tracks from December through March. With thousands of athletes and fans coming to Rantoul, which sits just north of Champaign-Urbana and the University of Illinois, new hotels, restaurants and area attractions are in the works to further welcome teams to the community. 

North Carolina: Winston-Salem

When it comes to sports, Winston-Salem’s got serious game. Athletes of all ages know they can count on top-level venues ideally suited for youth, amateur or professional events and competitions, inside and out.

Pristine college facilities, state-of-the-art indoor track, spacious arena, downtown convention center, well-maintained multi-purpose fields – they’re all a part of the game plan in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. One of the premier indoor track and field facilities in the southeast, JDL Fast Track houses a 200-meter oval track with a Mondotrack FTX surface, the same surface used at the 2008 and 2012 Olympic Games. This 105,000-square-foot facility is no stranger to prestige. JDL Fast Track hosted the 2019 USATF Masters Indoor Track & Field Championships. 

Just minutes from downtown Winston-Salem, BB&T Sports Park is one of the premier multi-purpose facilities in the state and offers 13 full-size fields including four full-size turf fields. Elevated viewing areas, a stadium field with seating for 1,400 and field house complete the complex. The park has hosted national soccer, lacrosse and Ultimate championships. In addition to its world-class athletic facilities, Winston-Salem has more than 5,000 hotels rooms, giving event organizers, coaches, parents and athletes a variety of lodging options.

Oklahoma: Edmond

Edmond, Oklahoma has a wide range of state-of-the-art-sports facilities that accommodate state, regional and national competitions for both youth and adult athletics. The selection of comfortable accommodations and proximity to major thoroughfares like Interstate 35, Interstate 44 and historic Route 66 make traveling a breeze. Edmond boasts over 250 restaurants, numerous family and group-friendly activities, as well as a vibrant art scene. You’ll find indoor/outdoor food halls, downtown street festivals and local shopping galore. Choose from 1,030 rooms across 15 hotel properties, as well as 60+ vacation homes. 

Edmond is the host city for many youth sports competitions – including Beat the Heat soccer tournament at Edmond Soccer Club; numerous U.S. Tennis Association-sanctioned youth events, including the USTA National L2 & L3 at Edmond Center Court; Oklahoma Secondary Schools Activities Association regional and state swim tournaments at the Edmond Public Schools Aquatic Center; Oklahoma Secondary Schools Activities Association state football championships at the University of Central Oklahoma; Triple Crown Fastpitch softball tournament at Mitch Park, Edmond Route 66 Park and Oklahoma Christian University.

Lazy E Arena is the largest indoor arena in the country. 

Edmond Soccer Club has 18 grass fields, 10 of which are lighted. The Kickingbird Golf Course will be ready to host in the fall of 2022 following renovations – and in the meantime, there’s the Golf Club of Edmond and Oak Tree National. 

Oregon: Central Oregon

Central Oregon is only an emerging market if you haven’t been here. It is one of the birthplaces of mountain biking (it boasts the iconic Phil’s Trail) and has world-class golf and skiing, along with one of the most diverse and robust micro-brew scenes in the nation. In short, Central Oregon is a place that should be on your must-consider list for 2022 and beyond. 

Spend time in the area’s perfect climate with over 300 days of sunshine each year, and you’ll quickly realize why the Bend Redmond area is one of the nation’s fastest-growing regions, and why people return year after year. Take a step out of your comfort zone and discover someplace new and exciting. You’ll enjoy providing an opportunity for your participants, guests and spectators to experience whatever adventure they decide.

At 340 acres, the beautiful Deschutes County Fair & Expo is one of the premier facilities of its type, not only in the Northwest, but the nation; and is just one of many possible options in a Pacific Northwest wonderland. Come to Central Oregon and raise a pint at one of more than 28 microbreweries. You’ll understand what the locals mean when they say, “Welcome home.”

Pennsylvania: Lancaster County

Lancaster County has all the amenities of a big city but with a distinctive style that’s all its own. Boasting approximately 9,000 guest rooms, state-of-the-art venues and facilities, the area can host a wide variety of events at a great value. 

Unique from traditional northeast locations, Lancaster County blends the convenience of being centrally located to the metropolitan areas of Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington, DC and New York, with its own sophistication. There is plenty for teams to do in their downtime. From farm-to-table dining to outdoor adventures and outlet shopping, a full weekend of competition and fun awaits.

A few of the fantastic local facilities include…

Spooky Nook Sports, home to the largest indoor sports complex in America. 

Lancaster Convention Center: Providing more than 90,000 square feet of combined space for cheerleading competitions, volleyball tournaments and mixed martial arts events, this integrated facility is ideal for all athletic championships in a location that is convenient to northeast metropolitan cities – but not as demanding on the event budget. 

The Kunkel Aquatic Center: This 21,000-square-foot natatorium houses the 50-meter x 25-yard McGinness Pool. McGinness Pool is the site of the annual Centennial Conference Swimming Championships and the NJ YMCA State Championships.

Virginia: Loudoun County

Nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, in an area best known for wineries, horses and charming historic towns, Loudoun County, Virginia is now home to one of the largest international ice complexes on the East Coast. Just 25 miles west of Washington, DC, the county is a burgeoning sports destination with state-of-the-art fields and facilities, an affluent and growing residential base and more than 5,700 rooms in hotels, resorts and B&Bs. 

In 2019, Loudoun welcomed ION International Training Center, a 90,000-square-foot, $25 million arena in county seat Leesburg, a mere 20 minutes from Dulles International Airport. The vision of Romanian Olympic figure skater Luiz Taifas, the complex features two NHL-size rinks, a full-service gym, pro shop, medical room and a 5,500-seat arena with a multi-functional floor that can be converted into concert or event space. Eight miles east, meanwhile is Ashburn Ice House, with its two NHL-size rinks, site of the 2016 US Hockey High School Nationals. 

Loudoun is not only a skating destination, though. The Washington Football Team trains in Ashburn, while DC United’s second division soccer team plays at a new 5,000-seat stadium in Leesburg. Spring and summer see collegiate baseball, softball and equestrian events. 

Loudoun may market itself as DC’s Wine Country, but it’s fast becoming sports country too. SDM

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