What a difference a year makes. In 2017, Fayetteville hosted 47 athletic tournaments and events across its portfolio of indoor and outdoor sports venues. But in 2018 that number grew to more than 70 — an increase of more than 50 percent.
The person responsible for bringing all those events to town is the Fayetteville Area CVB’s Stephanie Decatur. As the event-sales manager who’s focused on the sports and fraternal markets, Stephanie has been traveling around the country to educate event coordinators about the host venues, hotels, attractions and other elements that make Fayetteville a premier destination for athletic tournaments and competitions. In fact, Stephanie returned from the National Association of Sports Commissions annual convention in late spring with several new leads from large sports organizations. “That show gets me in front of everyone from the U.S. Olympic Committee to national little league organizations, and many of them are now considering Fayetteville to host their competitions,” she notes.
Fayetteville already has an impressive roster of steady athletic-event clients, including the Christian Cheer Association, NCWAY youth wrestling, Top Gun youth baseball, and several soccer and basketball organizations. But Stephanie has recently landed other big groups such as the cheerleading organization Champions in Motion for several upcoming events, plus the North Atlantic Color Guard Association’s 3,500-person annual competition.
The top venue in town for athletic groups to use is Crown Complex, comprising the 11,000-seat Crown Coliseum (also home of Fayetteville’s minor-league hockey and indoor football teams); the 5,000-seat Crown Arena (home of the city’s women’s roller-derby team); and the 60,000-square-foot Expo Center — all three are located on the same property and share a huge parking facility. What’s more, Sports Planning Guide recently named Crown Complex one of the top 10 indoor sports facilities in the Southeast.
With the color guard association and the cheerleading groups in particular, “they just love the coliseum for both its atmosphere and its flexibility,” Stephanie says. “We drop a house curtain so that they can use part of the floor for warm-up and prep, and then each team comes through a specially-created entryway to the other side of the coliseum to perform for the crowd.” And at the Crown Arena, the wrestling and basketball tournaments find it very appealing that they can conduct multiple individual competitions at the same time on the large floor.
As for the outdoor sports facilities located throughout Fayetteville, “the Cumberland County Parks and Recreation Department does an incredible job of keeping the fields in great shape,” Stephanie adds. “We have a long outdoor season because of our mild weather, and the soccer and baseball tournaments love the quality of the playing surfaces and spectator areas.” In fact, the Top Gun baseball series comes to town for 21 weekends every year; each weekend attracts about 200 youth players and their families.
Come spring 2019, another outdoor venue is being added to the options in Fayetteville — and it’s a big one. The Houston Astros of Major League Baseball have partnered with Cumberland County to construct a $41-million baseball stadium right near downtown, where Houston’s A-level minor league team will play. Even better, “the partnership allows amateur tournaments, school events, association events and others to use the facility as well,” Stephanie notes. “The kids and adults who get to compete there are in for an amazing experience.”