The Northeast is home to many of the original 13 American Colonies; it’s also an ideal starting point when seeking new sports destinations. States in this region can accommodate a wide range of competition, including traditional ball sports, cycling, watersports, skiing and quadball (more on that later).
Here’s a rundown of what’s happening in eight Northeast destinations that should be on your radar.
Let’s begin as far north in the U.S. as we can go, in Maine, where local organizing committees strive to make events as “Maine memorable” as possible, according to Sheila Brennan Nee, director of the Maine Sports Commission in Auburn. “Sports event planners find many athletes have Maine on their wish list as a destination,” she points out.
Notable sports facilities include Portland’s Cross Insurance Arena, Bangor’s Cross Insurance Center and the Fort Kent Outdoor Center. Additionally, the Ballpark at Old Orchard Beach is home of the annual Firecracker Sports All-American Lighthouse Classic baseball tournament, which attracts more than 100 teams.
Maine also hosts an IRONMAN 70.3 event in the state’s capital city of Augusta. Waterville and Oakland welcomed the Cal Ripken Major/60 12U World Series 2022, while Waterville’s Colby College hosted the 2022 USA Artistic Swimming’s U.S. Masters Championship. Maine also is one of only two states in the country (Vermont is the other) to host the Enduro World Series mountain bike event.
Lake George, New York
The Lake George area in the Adirondack Mountains offers several venues ready to host sports events, including Cool Insuring Arena, Gore Mountain (New York’s largest ski resort) and the Adirondack Sports Complex.
“The Lake George Area bridges the gap between the urban downstate landscape and six million acres of forever-wild wilderness,” says Nick Kelly, sports and reunion coordinator for the Lake George Regional Convention & Visitors Bureau. “With our mix of lakes, mountains, fields and sports venues, we can host both indoor and outdoor competition.”
In 2022, Lake George hosted a variety of sports ranging from the annual Alpha Win Triathlon, Scott George Memorial Softball Tournament and New York State Public High School Athletic Association’s boys’ basketball and girls’ volleyball championships, as well as the Special Olympics New York Fall Games and the Prime Lacrosse Lake George National Invitational. The 2023 calendar includes the 11-day FISU World University Games in January, the largest winter multi-sport collegiate athletic event in the world. Only two other cities in the country have hosted the games, and both are in New York (Buffalo in 1993 and Lake Placid in 1972).
Additionally, the Lake George Regional CVB would like to host more events for ski racing and quadball, the sport formerly known as quidditch, that incorporates elements of rugby, basketball and dodgeball.
Located between New York City and Boston, Connecticut is within a two-and-a-half-hour driving distance for more than 23.5 million people, according to Bob Murdock, president of the Connecticut Convention & Sports Bureau in Middletown. Notable venues include Pratt & Whitney Stadium at Rentschler Field in East Hartford (which hosted the 2022 NCAA Division I, II and III Men’s Lacrosse Championships), the Connecticut Convention Center and XL Center (both in Hartford), the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville (host of the 2022 Basketball Hall of Fame Tip-Off Classic) and Total Mortgage Arena in Bridgeport. In 2022, the state also welcomed the NCAA Division I Men’s Golf Regional in New Haven, the USA BMX Eastern Nationals in Trumbull and the NCAA Division I Field Hockey Championship at the University of Connecticut in Storrs.
“We are open to hosting any events in Connecticut that make sense for event planners and our host venues,” Murdock says, adding that the bureau is making a “concerted effort” to bring esports events to the state. “We are looking to add more diversity of events to match our state’s population.”
The Wildwoods, New Jersey
This Jersey Shore destination is home to the world-famous 38-block Wildwood Boardwalk, which passes right outside The Wildwoods Convention Center, site of several youth sports events with 260,000 square feet of flexible space that includes a 5,000-seat arena.
The facility hosts everything from basketball to indoor soccer, wrestling, gymnastics, floor hockey and cheer and dance. Additionally, The Wildwoods’ beach accommodates soccer, volleyball and other competitions.
“Being located right on the beach gives competitors and attendees an opportunity to take a walk on the beach or play in the surf and ocean between competitions,” says Ben Rose, director of marketing and public relations for the Greater Wildwoods Tourism Authority, adding that the Beach Blast 5v5 Sand Soccer Tournament attracts nearly 20,000 participants to 100 beach soccer fields.
Delaware is a relatively short interstate drive from such major cities as Philadelphia, Baltimore, New York City and Washington, D.C. But that’s just one reason for its appeal.
“The state’s lack of a sales tax means a more affordable trip,” says Ryan Wolfe, sports sales leader for the Delaware Tourism Office. “The quality of Delaware’s facilities and the convenience of its mid-Atlantic location have made the state a prime location for lacrosse, soccer and flag football events. Delaware [also] has great potential for hosting more softball, baseball and tennis events.”
The state boasts several facilities of regional championship or national semifinal caliber, according to Wolfe. They include DE Turf in Frederica, Kirkwood Sports in New Castle, Chase Fieldhouse in Wilmington and Sandhill Fields in Georgetown. Among the 2022 highlights were Delaware’s first-ever PGA Tour event (the BMW Championship in Wilmington), the Atlantic 10 Women’s Basketball Championship in Wilmington, the U.S. Adult Figure Skating Championships in Newark and the Senior League Softball World Series in Lower Sussex. Many of those events will return in 2023, Wolfe says.
Lackawanna County, Pennsylvania
This northeastern Pennsylvania county (which includes Scranton) offers a low-cost alternative to higher-profile destinations, according to Alexa Peregrim, director of sales for the Lackawanna County Visitors Bureau. She also notes the region’s proximity to such major metropolitan areas as New York City, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Cleveland and Washington, D.C.
“We are always looking to bring more events to the area,” she says. “We have a three-tier system developed for our sports facilities. Tier 1 includes professional facilities and universities such as PNC Field and the University of Scranton. Tier 2 includes private and high school facilities. Within Tiers 1 and 2, we have over 90 basketball courts, 40-plus baseball and softball fields and 30-plus soccer fields and tennis courts.”
The county also can accommodate cycling, running, archery, trout fishing and kayaking. Notable venues include the Riverfront Sports Complex, Schautz Stadium, Marywood University and the Birchwood Tennis & Fitness Club.
Valley Forge, Pennsylvania
About two hours south of Lackawanna County is Pennsylvania’s Valley Forge area, home of the Greater Philadelphia Expo Center in Oaks and The Proving Grounds in Plymouth.
The region will host several new national sports events in 2023, according to Rachel Dailey, sports and events manager for the Valley Forge Tourism & Convention Board. They include the US Youth Soccer Eastern Presidents Cup, USA Wrestling’s Junior Nationals, the US Quadball Cup and USA Taekwondo’s East Grand Prix.
“We’re also always discovering new partnerships to expand our existing inventory of facilities,” Dailey says. “As a result of new facilities recently opening to tournament rentals, we’re looking forward to hosting more adult softball and sports that utilize hardwood courts, not just basketball and volleyball but table tennis, badminton and more.”
Harford County, Maryland
The southernmost destination on this list is home to The Ripken Experience Aberdeen, which features replicas of notable Major League Baseball ballparks and hosts baseball tournaments from March through November. The facility, operated by Ripken Baseball, which was founded by Baseball Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr. and his brother/business partner, Bill, also opened two new fields in April.
The APG Federal Credit Union Arena on the Harford Community College campus and Cedar Lane Regional Park are two other high-profile facilities in the county and the Coppermine North field complex is expected to open in 2023, according to Matthew Scales, executive director of Visit Harford!
“We’re also positioned at the top of the Chesapeake Bay, with stunning waterfront views [and] four state parks for amazing outdoor recreation experiences,” Scales says. SDM