Indoors and out, the Northeast offers a land of opportunity for sports event organizers. Here are seven destinations located in the upper-right corner of the U.S. map that are worthy of your attention.
Binghamton, New York
With a centralized location three hours from New York City and Philadelphia, Binghamton attracts lots of regional competitions, thanks in part to its facilities.
Greenlight Networks Grand Slam Park recently underwent a $4 million renovation that included the installation of four all-turf fields and new lights. The 90,000-square-foot Greater Binghamton Sports Complex, meanwhile, offers a full-size turf soccer field and can host multiple events at the same time.
Other venues include Visions Veterans Memorial Arena, the Binghamton Bulldogs Sports Complex and facilities on the Binghamton University campus. With such diversity, it’s no surprise this upstate New York city hosts everything from a PGA TOUR Champions event to a variety of New York State Public High School Athletic Association state championships.
“We love sports and welcoming people to our community,” says Judi Hess, director of Visit Binghamton. “With the completion of upgrades to Greenlight Networks Grand Slam Park, we are looking to bring more softball to the area, and with the turf fields, we can start our season earlier and play later into the year. We also do well with field hockey, soccer, flag football and other high school competitions.”
Merrimack Valley, Massachusetts/New Hampshire
The Merrimack Valley region spans both Massachusetts and New Hampshire along the Merrimack River, which is one of New England’s prime waterways. As such, Lowell, Massachusetts will host the 2024 USRowing Northeast Youth Championships on the Merrimack River in May. The region also is home to the Baystate Marathon, a Boston Marathon qualifier.
High-profile facilities in Massachusetts include the Tsongas Center at UMass Lowell, home to the university’s NCAA Division I hockey and basketball programs; The Edge Sports Center in Bedford, which offers indoor ice along with indoor and outdoor turf; and the Nashoba Valley Ski Area in Westford.
“With a major river like the Merrimack, we can accommodate many water sports organizations,” says Rick Lofria, executive director of the Greater Merrimack Valley Convention & Visitors Bureau. “We also can accommodate others such as baseball, basketball, hockey and club-level sports like gymnastics, volleyball and pickleball.”
Hillsborough Township, New Jersey
Iron Peak Sports & Events is a multi-purpose indoor and outdoor facility with amenities that include three outdoor turf fields lined for soccer, lacrosse and football. Inside, there are four basketball courts convertible to eight volleyball courts, four newly opened pickleball courts and an 80,000-square-foot indoor turf field dome.
“We are in the initial stages of launching our Iron Peak multi-sport tournament series that will be hosted at our facility in partnership with leaders in competitive youth soccer,” says Kelly Watson, Iron Peak’s marketing director, adding that tournaments in other sports are in the works, too. “Pickleball events are on our radar, as we continue to grow our membership base as well as our own branded in-house tournament series.”
The facility recently hosted a Lacrosse Masters College Prospect Camp and a D3 Lacrosse Showcase, plus Full Court Press youth basketball tournaments and the New Jersey Legacy Cup Taekwondo Championship. Iron Peak offers aerial ropes, climbing walls and a Ninja course, as well as a large arcade and prize center and a café.
The Wildwoods, New Jersey
Much of the sports activity that happens in the Wildwoods of New Jersey takes place inside and outside the Wildwoods Convention Center, from basketball and gymnastics tournaments to regional dance and cheerleading championships to national youth wrestling and mixed martial art competitions, and even beach marbles tournaments and international kite festivals.
With 260,000 square feet of flexible indoor space located right on the beach and boardwalk, the Wildwoods Convention Center is equipped with a 75,000-square-foot arena that can be configured into two 37,500-square-foot spaces, 30,000 square feet of lobby and pre-function space, a 12,000-square-foot ballroom and prime beach and ocean views.
Outside, five miles of white sand beaches and oceanfront provide a memorable setting for surfing or swimming competitions, as well as beach sports tournaments in volleyball, soccer, field hockey and lacrosse. Bleacher seating on the beach accommodates more than 3,000 spectators, according to Michele Mendelson, sales manager for the Wildwoods Convention Center, and the boardwalk spans 38 blocks filled with amusement rides and attractions, shops, arcades and eateries.
“In recent years, [many] new sporting events have taken place in the Wildwoods, prompting a renaissance of youth sports events in the region,” she says.
Atlantic City, New Jersey
Another New Jersey destination with a famous boardwalk is Atlantic City, which boasts two major indoor sports facilities. The Atlantic City Convention Center offers 600,000 square feet of space that caters to court sports such as basketball, volleyball and futsal, while Jim Whelan Boardwalk Hall is a 14,000-seat arena that hosts everything from Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference basketball tournaments to indoor auto racing. It’s nestled right in the heart of the city on the historic four-mile Atlantic City Boardwalk.
The 2024 event calendar includes events as varied as the USA Triathlon Olympic Sprint Distance National Championships, a USA Fencing regional tournament and the USA BMX Northeast Gold Cup. Atlantic City also hosted the 2023 USRowing Indoor National Championships and the 2023 USA Pickleball National Indoor Championship.
The Atlantic City Sports Commission welcomes all types of sporting events and operates with a “no stone unturned philosophy,” says Daniel Gallagher, the commission’s director of sports sales.
Lackawanna County, Pennsylvania
Lackawanna County in Northeastern Pennsylvania has no shortage of sports venues. Turf fields at both Schautz
Stadium in Dunmore and the University of Scranton host baseball, softball and soccer, and Riverfront Sports in Scranton offers an indoor turf field and three full-size basketball courts for multiple court and mat sports. Summit is home to the Birchwood Tennis Club and its seven indoor tennis courts and eight indoor pickleball courts, and Montage Mountain Resorts in Scranton holds snow sports competitions.
The region recently hosted such high-profile events as The Ladies Ball Northeast Regional (in partnership with the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame), the 3v3 Live Soccer Tour, Keystone Select Softball competitions, trophy trout fishing tournaments, powerlifting events and multiple archery festivals and marathons.
“We are not focusing on any one sport,” says Alexa Peregrim, director of sales for the Scranton-based Lackawanna County Visitors Bureau. “We are still in the education phase of sports tournaments, meaning that we are still teaching planners exactly what Lackawanna County has to offer them in the way of facilities, amenities, hotels, attractions and overall services from the visitors bureau. Our site tours have a 99 percent booking rate: Once a planner visits the area, they are completely surprised not only by the number of venues we have, but the quality of the venues, as well.”
State of Connecticut
Located between New York City and Boston, the State of Connecticut is New England’s second-smallest state but has big sports tourism offerings.
Among the facilities that can accommodate high-profile sporting events are Pratt & Whitney Stadium at Rentschler Field (East Hartford), the Connecticut Convention Center (Hartford), the XL Center (Hartford), the Mohegan Sun Arena (Uncasville) and Total Mortgage Arena (Bridgeport).
Highlights in 2023 included the United States men’s national soccer team hosting a friendly against Germany at Pratt & Whitney Stadium in Rentschler Field, the annual Chris Paul Family Foundation and Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame Historically Black Colleges and Universities Tip-Off at Mohegan Sun and the United Futsal Metropolitan Regional Showcase, also at Mohegan Sun.
According to Bob Murdock, president of the Connecticut Convention & Sports Bureau, the state is especially well positioned to host pickleball, ice hockey, figure skating, gymnastics, volleyball, cheer and dance, softball, lacrosse, basketball, running events and squash. “We are making a concerted effort to bring [in] e-sports and video gaming events, and we are working to add more diversity of events to match our state’s population,” he added. SDM