The Mid-Atlantic: Sports Know-How and Can-Do
19 May, 2014By: Jenny Wierschem
The densely populated Mid-Atlantic region includes important metropolitan hubs such as New York City, Baltimore, Maryland, and Washington, DC. But within each of the states in the region it is also possible to get away from sprawl to take advantage of sports event opportunities by traveling west to the Appalachian mountains or by exploring athletic opportunities on waterways such as the Chesapeake Bay or the area’s many rivers and lakes.
What exactly is the Mid-Atlantic? The region is defined slightly differently by various sources. Definitions typically include some combination of the District of Columbia and the following states: Maryland, Delaware, Virginia, West Virginia, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and New York.
The states in the region are stitched together by a comprehensive transportation network that moves millions of people every day. This means that sports tournament participants, volunteers, and spectators can be pulled from a wide geographic area quickly. The area is rich in opportunities for accommodations in a wide variety of service levels and price points. There is also plenty of cosmopolitan appeal, with a wide variety of restaurants, attractions, history and more, just waiting for visitors during their off hours.
Binghamton, New York
Binghamton is located in New York but lies close to the Pennsylvania border at the confluence of the Chenango and Susquehanna rivers. Its status as a smaller-sized city in a region with major cities places it in the strategic position of taking advantage of metropolitan infrastructures, without sacrificing ease of getting around from point to point within the city. Binghamton is within reach of four airports within a one-hour radius and is at the intersection of three major highways.
The Mid-Atlantic region is famous as the home of lacrosse, and that is evident in Binghamton, which hosts multiple locations for tournament, including the Greater Binghamton Sports Complex, whose dome allows indoor play (an advantage to planners who want to avoid rainouts).
“We have an indoor lacrosse tournament in February that is one of the largest in the nation,” says Judi Hess, manager of tourism and special events for the Greater Binghamton Convention and Visitors Bureau. “We are now hosting three extremely large outdoor summer tournaments. Lacrosse has become really big for us year-round because we are able to do it indoor and outdoor.”
Other areas of strength for Binghamton include softball and gymnastics. Binghamton recently hosted the I Love NY Cup gymnastics invitational at the 5,00- seat Broome County Veterans Memorial Arena, which drew gymnasts from all a multitude of points Northeast.
Hershey and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
Hershey, Pennsylvania might be more widely known for its famous chocolate factory and amusement park than sports tournament offerings, but the city’s attractions makes it a popular draw for family friendly events.
“A lot of people who come to town for their kids’ events will make a vacation or mini-vacation out of it,” says Gregg Cook, sports marketing manager for the Hershey Harrisburg Regional Visitors Bureau.
While fun might be part of the draw, the region is a major player in tournaments.“We are wrapping up our fourth year of the Keystone State Games this summer,” says Cook. “We recently hosted the U.S. Eastern Synchronized Skating Sectional Championships, the Pennsylvania Junior Wrestling State Championships, and we also host numerous state high school sports championships.”
Premier facilities in the Hershey-Harrisburg region include the 10,000-seat Giant Center arena and the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex and Expo Center. A multisport facility, Spooky Nook Sports, recently opened in the area, expanding the region’s sports event capabilities.
“It is enormous, shiny, new, and clean,” says Cook. “It’s training home for the USA Women’s Field Hockey Team.”
The area is also rich in high school facilities and options at Penn State Harrisburg to meet needs of tournament planners.
Pittsburgh, situated in Western Pennsylvania, at the confluence of the Monongahela and Allegheny rivers and the head of the Ohio River in the Allegheny Mountains, once benefited from its placement for the steel industry—and those same natural features now make for sports event opportunities. The city’s annual Three Rivers Regatta is home to professional powerboat races. The area’s rivers have also been host to Fishing League Worldwide, Bassmaster, and Forrest Wood Cup tournaments.
Away from the water, Pittsburgh is a golf destination. Pennsylvania has more than 500 public golf courses, including the highly regarded Olde Stonewall Golf Club and Mystic Rock at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort.
Maryland has been called “America in Miniature” because of its varied geography.
“We have a very diverse landscape,” says Terry Hasseltine, executive director of Maryland Sports. “We have the beaches in the East to the mountains in the West. We have historic, quaint communities. We have the nation’s capital within just a few minutes. We have people across the state who have a can-do attitude.”
Maryland is particularly well-known for lacrosse (Baltimore is the home of US Lacrosse, the national governing body) and sailing, though the state hosts sports and athletic events of all types. The SAC Columbia Invitational Memorial Day Tournament for soccer has grown from about 300 teams to 700 teams. The Dew Tour in Ocean City is a prominent and popular BMX and skateboard multi-day event. This summer, the 10K Across the Bay will take advantage of the unique opportunity presented by the Chesapeake Bay Bridge to cross an expansive waterway.
The state also has facilities to host outdoor sports events at all levels.
“Maryland might be tight in the landscape when it comes to the size and scope, but when all is said and done we have some iconic indoor centers—Comcast Center in PG County, Lejeune Hall in the Naval Academy, Baltimore Arena and more,” says Hasseltine.
Annapolis and Anne Arundel County, Maryland
Where there’s history, there’s sports history, and Annapolis has it. The Maryland Jockey Club founded in the city in 1743 is the oldest sports organization in the United States and was the originator of the second-oldest trophy.
“We go all the way back and say ‘yes, we had George Washington and James Monroe forming our sports history,’” says Jo Ellyn McNees, vice president of sales for the Annapolis and Anne Arundel County Conference and Visitors Bureau.
Sports events are still a strong driver of the area’s economy, and not simply an historical legacy. The area is often referred to as the nation’s sailing capital. It is also experienced in hosting soccer and lacrosse, as well as basketball, baseball, football, and other sports.
Sports tournaments make use of facilities throughout the city and surrounding Anne Arundel County. Whenever possible, the city leverages the Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium for sports tournaments and other events.
“Groups come into the stadium, and you can just see the sense of pride take over,” says McNees. “Everyone just has a great feeling about that Naval Academy complex, and they’ve really made it one of the best 38,000-seat stadiums in the United States.”
Franklin County, Virginia
The natural beauty of Franklin County in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains makes it a destination “away from it all” that can still draw on the population and transportation infrastructure of the Mid-Atlantic region.
Two major lakes in the county are popular locations for fishing tournaments: Smith Mountain Lake and Philpott Lake.
“In 2013, Franklin County hosted the Oakley Big Bass Tour, FLW Virginia High School State Championship and the Fishers of Men fishing tournaments—all along Smith Mountain Lake,” says Tarah Holland, tourism development manager for Franklin County’s Office of Economic Development.
The area is also frequent host to field sports such as baseball and lacrosse. Waid Recreation Park in Rocky Mount has been the site of Virginia Little League Baseball tournaments, and also can accommodate lacrosse. Disc golf is an additional strength of the area. The Franklin County Recreation Park has an 18-hole championship-level disc golf course and the Commonwealth Games of Virginia hosts a disc golf tournament at the park each year.