Columbia SC lies at the confluence of the Saluda and Broad Rivers, which merge right in town to form the Congaree. The region is flush with regional parks and opportunities for outdoor adventures. With so many trails, gardens and Lake Murray nearby, it doesn’t take long to get from the middle of town to what seems like the middle of nowhere. Escape the bustling city and get lost in your thoughts amidst fresh air, cool waters and old growth hardwood forest all year long.
Our region boasts a diverse array of both indoor and outdoor venues, such as Spirit Communications Park, The Palmetto Health Fields at Saluda Shoals Park, Cayce Tennis and Fitness Center at Otarre Point and Colonial Life Arena, to name a few. These facilities make it possible to host events ranging in size from local games and matches to major national tournaments.
Our predictably sunny days and hardworking Experience Columbia SC Sports team pair perfectly to provide an ideal planning experience for anything from football, baseball and basketball to quidditch, lacrosse and rowing.
Rowing: Columbia is an especially popular destination for rowing. With an uninterrupted three-mile stretch of flat water along the Broad River, many Northern and Midwestern rowing teams travel to Columbia for their winter and spring trainings each season.
“Following the devastation Columbia experienced from the historic 2015 flooding, the Columbia Rowing Club dock actually washed away,” said Scott Powers, Executive Director of Experience Columbia SC Sports. “We missed the 2016 season, but the dock has since been rebuilt and we welcomed teams back this past April.”
Unconventional: Columbia has become somewhat of a hub for nontraditional sports. We hosted US Quidditch Cup 9 in 2016, which was one of the first events held at The Palmetto Health Fields at Saluda Shoals Park. We were selected after a successful site visit during which we took the US Quidditch team on a tour of the (at the time) still unfinished facilities and finished the day with a sunset kayak and brew along the Saluda River.
“Working on US Quidditch Cup 9 is such a strong example of how collaborative the Columbia community is,” said Powers. “The relationships we have with our partners are key and together, we truly roll out the red carpet for our visitors. We knew this tournament would be a significant event for the region and worked together with the Irmo Chapin Recreation Commission to put the wheels in motion early.”
The entities involved worked to ensure The Palmetto Health Fields would be finished on time, organized a committee of law enforcement, health and fire officials to put safety and security measures in place and made sure the hotels could be prepared.
When the teams and their friends and family made it to town, they found that the host hotel, Hampton Inn on the Lake at Harbison, had decorated the lobby with Hogwarts banners, changed room numbers to say 9 and ¾ and even had staff wearing Harry Potter-inspired clothing. At the closing party, local bakery Silver Spoon Bake Shop even made Butterbeer cupcakes.
It’s these experiences that were critical to US Quidditch’s decision to return in February 2017 for the South Regional Championship.
Another unconventional sport the Columbia region has welcomed is the U.S. Boomerang National Championship.
“We met with the U.S. Boomerang Association at Connect Sports Marketplace in August 2016,” said Powers. “Our interest was immediately piqued and by November 2016, their team traveled to Columbia for a site visit.”
Impressed with The Palmetto Health Fields at Saluda Shoals Park and the region’s offerings, the USBA awarded the 2017 Nationals to Columbia, which took place in September.
Tennis: The Cayce Tennis and Fitness Center at Otarre Point features 30 lighted courts with championship-sized stadium courts equipped to seat 2,000 spectators, making it an ideal location for big-ticket tournaments and championships throughout the year.
Columbia has hosted the USTA Junior Team Tennis Nationals for the past six years. The event brings players from all over the continental U.S., as well as Puerto Rico, and it held over two weekends.
“For the USTA Junior Team Tennis Nationals, we partner with Lexington County Recreation & Aging Commission to host separate player socials for each of the age divisions,” said Powers. “Last year, we hosted them at the South Carolina State Museum and the socials included DJs, dance floors, refreshments and interactive games. These socials, coupled with pre-tournament meals, make the young players like our community and is a big part of the reason the event has stayed in Columbia for so many consecutive years.”
Our weather and top-notch venues are bolstered by affordable hotels and three interstates that intersect the city, as well as a regional airport, that make getting here easy. With museums, nearby Congaree National Park, an acclaimed zoo and a culinary scene bursting with top talent, attendees and athletes of all ages can look forward to exploring this capital city with a college town beyond the main event, no matter the time of year.