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Wide Open Spaces

14 Sep, 2018

By: Michael Popke

When you look at a map of the United States, the Southwest and Pacific Coast regions cover tremendous swaths of territory. States such as Washington, Oregon, California, Arizona and Texas boast diverse terrain, climates and sports tourism opportunities.
Head straight west, and you’ll find hotbeds of endurance sports (Santa Rosa, California) and fishing (Redding, California) Turn north for curling and pickleball (Klamath County, Oregon), or go south for baseball and tennis (Surprise, Arizona).

Here are highlights of eight destinations that should be on your radar — if they’re not already.

Redding, California
Located in the heart of Northern California, Redding prides itself on being unlike other California destinations.

“With a population of 91,800, Redding is one of the few places left in California that features no traffic,” says Sabrina Jurisich, Shasta County’s film and sports commissioner at the Redding Convention & Visitors Bureau. “The Sacramento River runs right through the city. We’re also the sunniest city in California, with more than 300 days of sunshine per year.”

That kind of weather provides for a diverse schedule of events. Redding’s 2018 calendar includes hosting both the California Narcotic Officers’ Association’s bass fishing tournament (held in April) and the National Softball Association’s Annual Redding Fall Classic in November. The latter will be at Big League Dreams Sports Parks, which replicate smaller versions of Boston’s Fenway Park, New York’s Yankee Stadium and Chicago’s Wrigley Field. The facility also boasts a 20,000-square-foot climate-controlled fieldhouse equipped for hockey, soccer and volleyball.

Other facilities in Redding include the California Soccer Park, Redding Aquatic Center, Shasta Lake and Redding Rodeo Grounds.

Klamath County, Oregon
Another destination with 300-plus days of sunshine per year is Klamath County, where the two most popular venues for out-of-town teams are Steen Sports Park and the Bill Collier Community Ice Arena.

The 150-acre Steen Sports Park features four baseball diamonds, five soccer fields and an indoor field, while the Bill Collier Community Ice Arena boasts a 200-by-85-foot refrigerated ice sheet protected with a tensile fabric, pavilion-style roof. The facility is increasingly used for hockey, broomball and curling.

“Discover Klamath is beginning to grow its sports marketing efforts but remains in the beginning stages. While we realize we can’t compete in the traditional sports market because we don’t have the venues, we definitely see some potential for more of the non-traditional sports events,” says Raena Rodgers, marketing manager for the Discover Klamath Visitor and Convention Bureau, citing pickleball, mountain biking and cycling.

Surprise, Arizona
When it comes to this south-central Arizona city — another destination with more than 300 days of sunshine every year — the biggest surprise might be how much it offers.

“Major League Baseball spring training launched our city’s evolution into becoming a sports destination,” says Kendra Pettis, sports and tourism director for the City of Surprise, referring to the Kansas City Royals and Texas Rangers, both of which call the 10,000-seat-plus Surprise Stadium home.

Located in the heart of a West Coast baseball hotbed, Surprise Stadium also hosts the Big 10-Pac 12 Spring Training College Baseball Challenge, plus several amateur baseball tournaments. USA TODAY recently ranked Surprise Stadium as the No. 1 spring training stadium in the Cactus League, and it also topped all 23 spring training facilities in Arizona and Florida in the categories of facility and fan experience.

The Surprise Tennis & Racquet Complex, meanwhile, features 25 courts with lighting, and plays host to many United States Tennis Association tournaments and events.

Cleburne, Texas
This community, located just south of the Dallas-Fort Worth area, recently hosted the 2018 Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference Baseball Championship.

That tournament was held at The Depot at Cleburne Station (home of the independent Cleburne Railroaders Minor League Baseball team). The city also offers the Cleburne Sports Complex, with 20 soccer fields, seven baseball fields and two football fields; the 18-hole Cleburne Golf Links; and the 1,500-acre Lake Pat Cleburne.

“What makes those venues successful is that they are big-city, state-of-the-art facilities in a small-town with affordable rates,” says Heather Juarez, Cleburne’s tourism director. “We are looking to bring more sporting events to Cleburne, too. Sports on our radar are baseball, softball, soccer, football, golf, rodeo and water sports.”

Round Rock, Texas
There’s a reason Round Rock is hailed as the “Sports Capital of Texas:” Dell Diamond, home to the Texas Rangers’ Class AAA affiliate, the Round Rock Express, boasts 8,700 fixed seats and can seat another 3,000 in the outfield lawn area, while the 60-acre Multipurpose Complex provides four natural grass fields, one natural grass championship field, four synthetic turf fields and one synthetic turf championship field. The 82,800-square-foot Round Rock Sports Center can be configured for up to six high school basketball courts, 12 high school volleyball courts, three NCAA basketball courts or four badminton/pickleball courts.

No wonder Round Rock is the site of such diverse events as the 2018 USA Deaf Basketball National Tournament, US Quidditch Cup 11, 2018 iSET College Table Tennis National Championships and 2018 USA Judo Senior National Championships.

“Round Rock has invested millions into its sports facilities over the years, building a lineup of world-class indoor and outdoor sports venues,” says Nancy Yawn, director of the Round Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Olympia, Washington
Home to the Washington State Senior Games, the Olympia region offers several sports facilities. They include the Regional Athletic Complex, with six soccer fields and five baseball fields, and the 31,000-square-foot Marcus Pavilion at Saint Martin’s University, which has hosted Great Northwest Athletic Conference basketball tournaments.

Additionally, four courses in Thurston County will host the state’s high school golf championships for the next four years, beginning in 2019.

“We also are looking at numerous non-mainstream, or decidedly different, events during off-peak times of the year,” says Moira Davin, director of marketing and communications for Experience Olympia & Beyond, citing quidditch, disc golf and rugby. “The Olympia region is home to natural beauty that makes outdoor sports in the shadow of Mount Rainier a spectacular sight.”

Eugene, Oregon
Perhaps best known for its fabled track and field venue, Hayward Field — now undergoing significant renovations and slated to reopen in 2020 — Eugene is no one-trick pony.

“We love our track and field, but we certainly want people to know we have a lot more to offer,” says Janis Ross, executive director of the Eugene, Cascades & Coast Sports Commission. “People are surprised at the diversity of what we have.”

In August, the city hosted the USGA’s U.S. Senior Amateur Championship at Eugene Country Club. Other events include dragon boat races, flag football championships, volleyball tournaments swim meets and even hockey and figure skating events.

Sandboarding at Sand Master Park and beach soccer at Copa Cabana Beach, both in Florence, also are up-and-coming events that show promise, Ross says, and more outdoor soccer, football, baseball and softball fields are on the way.

Santa Rosa, California
Santa Rosa is located 50 miles north of San Francisco in the heart of Sonoma Wine Country, where cycling is one of the top sports at both the competitive and amateur levels. The area has hosted stages of the Amgen Tour of California since 2006, as well as the IRONMAN and IRONMAN 70.3 (formerly known as the Vineman). And the Santa Rosa Marathon, a Boston Marathon qualifier, takes runners through the barrel room at DeLoach Vineyards.

“We’ve really become an endurance capital, because of the natural beauty here, with the coast, vineyards, valleys and redwoods,” says Charlene Lennon, director of sales for Visit Santa Rosa.

Additionally, the City of Santa Rosa manages 10 community parks and two aquatic centers that can accommodate baseball, softball, soccer, tennis, basketball, golf, cross country, bocce, pickleball, swimming and water polo. The area also is home to the Sonoma County Fairgrounds, the Wine Country Senior Games and Epicenter — a new indoor sports and entertainment complex with soccer fields and a basketball court. And Snoopy’s Senior World Hockey Tournament draws teams from all over the world to Redwood Empire Ice Arena. SDM

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