Greensboro, North Carolina: Playing The Game in ‘Tournament Town’
10 Jan, 2014By: Peter Francesconi
When it comes to sports travel, some locations may do one or two things well. They may offer a great venue for indoor sports or an amazing baseball or soccer complex. They may even have an exciting activity for athletes when they’re off the playing field.
But Greensboro, North Carolina, covers all the bases—from top-notch sports venues for professional, college and amateur events to a variety of attractions off the field of play. Event organizers and owners never need to look far when it comes to broad appeal for athletes, teams, families and fans. It’s no wonder that this city of 277,000, located in the heart of North Carolina right at the crossroads of major highways, has earned the nickname “Tournament Town.”
“Everything here is state of the art and it’s done right,” says Amy Scott, director of marketing for the Greensboro CVB. “We have great sports facilities and when athletes aren’t competing, there are so many things to do in the area.”
Greensboro Coliseum Complex
You can’t talk about Greensboro sports facilities without mentioning the excellent Coliseum Complex, which hosts a variety of events year-round. For indoor sports such as basketball, volleyball, cheer, gymnastics, wresting and more, the massive flexible space offers many configurations. In addition to exhibit space, the 167,000-square-foot Special Events Center can be partitioned into four halls. The Complex also contains the 23,500-seat Coliseum Arena and the 2,376-seat War Memorial Auditorium.
The Coliseum has hosted ACC men’s and women’s basketball championships for many years. In 2011, the facility held the U.S. Figure Skating Championships, which is scheduled to come back in 2015. This March will see the USA Gymnastics American Cup, an international competition that rotates to venues around the world. A yearly event at the Coliseum is a large wresting tourney called the Super 32. In 2014, the complex also will play host to boys’ and girls’ national AAU basketball championships. Recent renovations have made the complex one of the largest in the nation and put the facility at the forefront of technological convenience, with state-of-the-art sound systems, lighting and partitioning systems to create the ideal environment for any event.
Within the Coliseum Complex is the 78,323-square-foot Greensboro Aquatic Center (GAC), which features leading-edge concepts in aquatic design. Opened in August 2011, the GAC brings together all major aquatic sports—competitive swimming and diving, water polo, synchronized swimming and other unique sports—in one venue. Featuring a competition pool, warm-up pool and diving well, the GAC hosts high school and collegiate events, USA Swimming meets, Master’s swimming and USA Synchro events, as well as many local, regional, national and international competitions. The facility also serves local citizens through its diverse programming.
“Before we broke ground on the Aquatic Center, we were awarded the U.S. Masters Swimming Spring Nationals,” says Brian Ambuehl, the sports sales manager for the Greensboro CVB. “That’s a huge testament to the interest and influence of the facility and aquatics community. The GAC staff has a ton of experience in the industry and is well known in swimming circles.”
After the 2012 London Olympics, top athletes flew right to Greensboro to compete in the AT&T USA Diving Championships. The GAC hosted the 2013 USA Swimming Speedo Winter Junior National Championships and has twice hosted the U.S. synchronized swimming trials. In 2014, USA Swimming will hold its Winter Nationals there and the YMCA National Short Course Swimming Championships will return for a third consecutive year.
Hitting the Track
“Track and field is really big here,” says Scott, “and we have the Irwin Belk Track, which brings in some great events.” The track facility is in the 23,000-seat Aggie Stadium on the campus of North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University and has an IAAF-certified track with a Mondo Super X Olympic style surface. The venue features eight 48-inch running lanes, dual-direction runways for long jump, triple jump and pole vault, multi-directional high jump and brushed concrete shot put and discus circles.
The Irwin Belk facility hosted the 2013 NCAA East Regional Preliminary Round, which brought in athletes from every Division I school east of the Mississippi. For the past seven years, the track also has played host to the National Scholastic Sports Foundation's annual national track and field event, sponsored by New Balance, which draws more than 2,000 of the best high school athletes in the nation. In 2009 and 2013, the stadium held the six-day USA Track and Field Junior Olympics, which featured more than 7,000 athletes from across the country. Other large events at Irwin Belk include the International Friendship & Freedom Games, the MEAC Outdoor Track and Field Championships and the North Carolina High School Athletic Association 1A, 2A, 3A and 4A Championships.
Soccer and field sports will find an accommodating home at the Bryan Park Soccer Complex, which features 17 well-maintained Bermuda grass fields, four with lights. The complex is the home field for the Carolina Dynamo professional team, which plays its matches in the 2,000-seat Macpherson Soccer Stadium and features a European-style roof, locker rooms and concession facilities. “We host a lot of events at the Bryan Park complex,” Scott says, “especially large youth tournaments.” Among the larger events was the NCAA Division III Men’s and Women’s Soccer National Championships in 2008.
The Greensboro Grasshoppers Single-A baseball team (an affiliate of the Florida Marlins) plays at New Bridge Bank Park. But the stadium also hosts other diamond events, including the ACC Baseball Championships and big youth regional and national events, and in 2008, the South Atlantic League All-Star game. The stands can hold 8,000 spectators, but for the ACC Championships, more than 10,000 fans showed up, taking positions on the grassy berms and picnic areas.
Other major sports venues include the J. Spencer Love Tennis Center, with 13 lighted outdoor clay courts, locker rooms and concessions. The facility has hosted many USTA events, including the Boys’ 12-and-Under National Championships.
And, of course, golf is big. In fact, 2014 will mark the 75th anniversary of the PGA Wyndham Golf Championship, held at Sedgefield Country Club. In 2010, the Bryan Park Golf Course (rated 4 stars by Golf Digest) hosted the USGA’s U.S. Amateur Public Links Championships. The 2011 NCAA Division III Men’s National Golf Championship was held at Grandover Resort and every year since 2004, the American Junior Golf Association has held the FootJoy Invitational at Sedgefield.
Off the Field
When not competing, there is plenty to do and see in the family-friendly Greensboro area. The Greensboro Science Center includes a zoo, science museum, 3-D theater and aquarium. The city also has a hands-on, interactive Children’s Museum, with more than 20 educations exhibits and an “Edible Schoolyard.” The Wet N Wild Water Park is the largest in the state and rated in the top 10 in the U.S. Greensboro also offers Celebration Station, home to a large go-kart track, bumper boats, 36 holes of miniature golf, batting cages, video arcade and more. The Coliseum Complex contains the interactive Atlantic Coast Conference Hall of Champions, honoring past and present ACC coaches and athletes.
The International Civil Rights Center & Museum takes visitors on a journey into American civil rights history with photos, artifacts, video and interactive galleries. The museum is in the former F.W. Woolworth building, where in 1960, four black college students, known as the Greensboro Four, sat at the “whites only” lunch counter, beginning a sit-in movement that sparked a nationwide push for equality and justice.
The area is easily accessible by car from virtually anywhere east of the Mississippi, and by air from Piedmont Triad International Airport. Weather-wise, temperatures average 48 degrees in winter and 88 in summer. In addition, there are 85 hotels with more than 10,000 hotel rooms, to suit all budgets.
“Greensboro is an extremely sports-friendly community,” Scott says. “The CVB will do all we can to make events and tournaments exciting for participants, fans and families and easy for event organizers. That’s how we play the game in ‘Tournament Town.’”
For more information, visit www.visitgreensboronc.com.