Going Big in ‘Tournament Town’
20 Nov, 2017By: Peter Francesconi
In the 1800s, Greensboro built a reputation for being a central hub for the textile industry. Today, Greensboro is better known as “Tournament Town” for its collection of state-of-the-art athletic venues that attract some of the biggest sporting events in the country.
One of the world’s largest multi-sport events — the AAU Junior Olympic Games — will take advantage of Tournament Town’s top sports facilities when it comes to Greensboro in July 2019. The 10-day extravaganza will bring an estimated 20,000 athletes and 30,000 spectators to the city for competitions in 15 different sports.
“There are few cities in the U.S. that have the facility infrastructure necessary to host the AAU Junior Olympic Games,” says Brian Ambuehl, national sports sales manager for the Greensboro CVB. “Being selected to host is a real feather in our cap. We’re not a large city but our sports facilities speak to the contrary.”
And Greensboro continues to expand its facilities. “The advantage of multi-court and multi-field venues in one location is what sports event organizers prefer, so we’re constantly looking to add and improve what we have to offer,” Ambuehl says. “All of our major venues have recently completed or are undergoing capital improvements, modifications or expansions. It’s an ongoing process necessary to compete in today’s sports industry.”
Greensboro Aquatic Center
For instance, the Greensboro Aquatic Center (GAC), already one of the top natatoriums in the country — having hosted marquee events such as the U.S. Synchronized Swimming Olympic Trials in 2012, USA Swimming, USA Diving, US Masters Swimming, YMCA and NCAA Swimming & Diving Championships — will be adding a fourth pool (in a new, second building attached to the main complex) to accommodate the increased demands on the popular, six-year-old indoor facility.
Currently, the 78,323-square-foot state-of-the-art GAC, located on the campus of the Greensboro Coliseum Complex, houses an eight-lane, 50-meter competition pool that can also accommodate up to 22 lanes for short course. The facility also has a 25-yard diving well with six swimming lanes and a therapeutic pool.
“Construction for this new fourth pool will start in January, and with its addition, the GAC will be uniquely positioned to accommodate all aquatic sports,” says Dennis Edwards, the CVB’s national sports sales manager.
The GAC already hosts one of the largest events in the country, the YMCA Short Course Swimming Nationals, which have called Greensboro home since 2012 and bring in up to 2,000 athletes each April. In December 2017, the GAC hosts the USA Diving Winter National Championships — the third time in five years that USA Diving is bringing a national championship to Tournament Town.
The GAC was recently awarded the 2018 U.S. Swimming Senior Nationals and Junior Nationals. After hosting NCAA Swimming and Diving Championships in 2015 and 2016, it was selected to host multiple NCAA Aquatics Championships in all three divisions over next five years.
Greensboro Coliseum Complex
The GAC sits in the footprint of the Greensboro Coliseum Complex, which also includes a 20,000-seat Arena, Special Events Center and Swarm Fieldhouse. The Arena has a long history of hosting major events, including NCAA and ACC Men’s and Women’s basketball tournaments.
Swarm Fieldhouse, home of the NBA G League team, contains 30,000 square feet of space, and the 167,000-square-foot Special Events Center includes 150,000 square feet of exhibition space.
The Coliseum venues can be used for all types of events. The popularity of basketball, volleyball and wrestling prompted an investment in wrestling mats and Sport Court flooring to accommodate eight basketball floors or 12 volleyball courts.
“Organizers love that we have equipment on-site to create a venue with multiple courts or mats,” Ambuehl says. “When hosting a wrestling event, for example, it’s a tremendous logistical and cost advantage not having to transport wrestling mats; we have them ready to go.”
The Coliseum’s wrestling mats come in handy each year when the facility hosts the Super 32 Challenge. “Top wrestlers from all over the country participate in this popular event,” Ambuehl notes. The Sport Court flooring also comes in handy with youth basketball. “We’re just loaded with youth basketball, and having this flooring makes it easy for tournament organizers.”
In 2018, the versatile Coliseum facility will host the USA Gymnastics Championships, along with the AAU 13U Boys Basketball Championships. Internationally, the World Tang Soo Do Association, a form of martial arts, has hosted its World Championships every other year at the Coliseum since 2010.
BB&T Soccer Park
Expansion continues at the beautiful BB&T Soccer Park at Bryan Park, which recently went from 17 fields to 21 full-size fields, including the 3,000-seat McPherson Stadium, complete with locker rooms and concessions area. There is also an on-site restaurant, offices and conference rooms. Two of the new Bryan Park fields are artificial turf, and nine are lighted. “A successful capital campaign enabled expansion of the facility,” Edwards notes.
“The city-owned Soccer Complex is managed by the Greensboro United Soccer Association, our local soccer club,” he adds. “We have a very strong soccer tradition in this city.”
Each year, the facility plays host to a US Soccer Development Academy Summer Showcase, and starting in April, it will also host the Girls’ Development Academy Spring Showcase. The US Youth Soccer Association Southern Championships, bringing in more than 220 teams from 11 states, was hosted in 2017 and will return in 2018.
Tennis and Track
Tennis is huge in Greensboro, which is where the USTA North Carolina/North Carolina Tennis Association is headquartered. The premier facility is the Spencer Love Tennis Center, with 13 outdoor clay courts.
“We’ve recently refurbished the facility, and the plan is to add more courts, which would position us to host a multitude of regional and national championships,” Edwards says. Also available are eight hard courts at each of three area colleges.
The Irwin Belk Track and Field Complex at North Carolina A&T’s Aggie Stadium was completed in 2004. The Mondo surface is certified by the IAAF (International Association of Athletics Federations), so world records set at the facility go into the official books.
The facility has dual pole vault and long jump/triple jump pits, along with the ability for athletes to run in either direction, depending on the wind. “We often have so many participants, particularly with our youth events, that two pits are essential,” Edwards says.
In July 2019, when the AAU Junior Olympic Games come to Tournament Town, the track and field events alone will attract more than 12,000 athletes. “It will be the largest track and field event in the country,” Edwards notes.
Rabid for Sports
“Greensboro is a rabid sports town,” Ambuehl says. “We love our sports, and it shows from our strong community support and local volunteerism when hosting events. Plus, when it comes to helping tournament and event organizers, the Greensboro Area CVB, together with the Greensboro Sports Commission, assists with a wide spectrum of services.”
Location and accessibility are major benefits to event organizers. Greensboro is centrally located on the eastern seaboard and accessible via its international airport as well as three major interstates that converge in the city.
“Sports event attendees often comment on how easy it is to navigate the city,” Ambuehl says. Helping to provide the necessary infrastructure to host successful sports events, the area has more than 10,000 hotel rooms, over 500 restaurants and a multitude of attractions, all within a 15-minute drive of each other.
When it comes to giving organizers, athletes, families and fans what they need to have the best experience possible, Tournament Town delivers. SDM