The Southeastern region is a sports mecca, with teams and fans alike drawn to its year-round sunshine and mild winters. Proximity to both sandy coastal beaches and stunning mountain ranges, as well as the region’s historic cities, unmatched cuisine, Latin influence and famed southern hospitality, only add to the allure. Following are some of the sports destinations available to make your next event a success.
In the heart of Cajun and Creole country, Lafayette, Louisiana, is known as the “Happiest City in America” for its rich cultural history, bustling culinary scene and distinctive blend of Cajun and Zydeco music.
Its central location, first-class venues and 5,700 hotel rooms also make the city a popular sports destination. In addition to USA Boxing Golden Gloves, WWE, USSSA Baseball and Fastpitch America Softball Association, previous events have included the World Girls Biddy Basketball Championship, Louisiana High School State Golf Championships, Louisiana Soccer Open Cup, Ragin Cajun Volleyball Classic and the Glow in the Cro hot air balloon festival.
While the 40,000-square-foot Cajundome seats 13,000 spectators, Pelican Park, Youngsville Sports Complex and Broussard Sports Complex are multi-use facilities providing recreational and family enjoyment. Offerings include a combination of baseball, softball, tee-ball, basketball, soccer, football, tennis, batting cages, volleyball and sand volleyball, playgrounds, scenic walking paths and fully stocked fishing ponds.
“At its core, sports is about competition and Lafayette is uniquely positioned to attract the highest caliber teams,” says Mike Roebuck, chief sales officer for the Lafayette Convention and Visitors Commission. “We offer a central location with world-class facilities and a family-friendly atmosphere in one of the most immersive cultures in the country. From food to entertainment to hotels, we can meet anyone’s budget. Lafayette Parish has hosted several championship events on our multi-purpose facilities at the national, regional and state level, wrapped in a fun and festive atmosphere like no other.”
Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
Myrtle Beach, South Carolina is a well-established home to large-scale youth and adult events such as baseball, fast pitch softball, track and field, volleyball, gymnastics and basketball. In recent years, the city has found additional success in hosting higher profile events which not only attract fans nationwide, but also provide significant television exposure.
The Myrtle Beach area has forged a beneficial relationship with Charlotte-based ESPN Events. The Myrtle Beach Invitational, an early season Division I collegiate basketball tournament, is entering its third year. In December 2020, the inaugural Myrtle Beach Bowl will take place at Brooks Stadium on the campus of Coastal Carolina University. This bowl game is one of three new bowl games this year, joining events held at Fenway Park and Los Angeles.
Indeed, traditional sports run the full spectrum. A range of events, including pickleball, cheer, dance, wrestling and gymnastics, is also growing and finding value in Myrtle Beach.
“With no end in sight for the explosive growth in sports tourism across the country, the Myrtle Beach area continues to be well positioned within the regional and national sports tourism event industry,” says Jonathan Paris, executive director of sports tourism for Myrtle Beach Regional Sports Alliance. “Combining our picturesque beach location, hotels and attractions with our world-class venues, our future remains bright.”
Huntsville/Madison County, Alabama
The centrally located city of Huntsville, Alabama has played an essential role in U.S. space travel, including constructing the Saturn V rocket that delivered man to the moon and serving as home to the U.S. Space & Rocket Center’s internationally famous Space Camp. Yet its motto, “We’ve Got Space,” also applies to the county’s numerous hotels and sports venues.
The region offers an array of soccer/lacrosse fields, tennis courts, a lagoon for model powerboat racing, quartermidget racing and two ice rinks for hockey, curling and figure skating – all within minutes of downtown.
John Hunt Park, which opened in fall 2019, is a world-class cross country venue that includes a 12-court beach/sand volleyball complex, rubberized walking trail, off-road bicycling area and disc golf course. Toyota Field, home of the Minor League Baseball Southern League’s Rocket City Trash Pandas, opened in February 2020.
Celebrating its third anniversary, the Huntsville Aquatics Center is one of the only facilities in the country featuring two 50-meter championship pools under the same roof. They are complemented by an instructional pool for all ages and levels.
“The commitment that the City of Huntsville and its sports partners have to athletics is unmatched in the Southeast,” says Matt Webber, director of the Huntsville Swim Association. “The Huntsville Aquatics Center is one of the best facilities in the country, but the commitment goes much further than just facilities, as the entire city is committed to make events happen in the best way possible.”
Home of the University of Arkansas Razorbacks, college team spirit is alive in well in Fayetteville, Arkansas. Yet the city’s venues, staff knowledge and resources make the city a natural at hosting year-round competitive events of all sizes.
That’s one reason why Fayetteville was selected to host the US Trail Running Conference for the first time, with sessions and events taking place at the Fayetteville Town Center and Graduate Fayetteville from October 21-24. The Pan-American Cyclocross Championships will be held from November 7-8 at Centennial Park at Millsap Mountain. Fayetteville will also be the site of the prestigious 2022 UCI Cyclocross World Championships.
The area is also a perfect setting for camping, fishing, climbing and hiking, with nearby Kessler Mountain Regional Park providing scenic vistas of the Ozarks. In its second phase of construction, this world-class facility will ultimately feature soccer, baseball, softball, tennis and cycling trails.
“There is truly something for everyone here,” says Luke Charpentier, sports sales manager of Experience Fayetteville. “Trust us, your attendees will be glad you decided to host your event in Fayetteville, Arkansas.”
Since 2003, Sports Facilities Advisory (SFA) and Sports Facility Management (SFM) have served over 2,000 communities representing more than $10 billion in community recreation and sports tourism projects. In 2019, the SFM Network was officially launched, representing the largest and fastest growing network of sports facilities in the country.
“The SFM Network is dedicated to the health and economic vitality of the communities we serve,” says Justin Roach, national director of events and entertainment. “Our SFM team of 700 strong across 16 venues partners with hundreds of event owners annually to deliver memorable experiences for athletes and families. We’re continually adding new venues to the network, and we welcome event owners to connect and explore future event partnership opportunities.”
Among the network’s venues are the following:
Horizons Edge Sports Campus in Harrisonburg, Virginia
Open since January 2020, Horizons Edge Sports Campus is a one-stop destination for sports, events, banquets, meetings, trade shows, parties, overnight camps and more. The 90,000-square-foot field house includes four basketball courts, six volleyball courts, a multi-purpose/indoor soccer field and a family entertainment center complete with full-service cafe. Outdoor facilities feature a regulation-size multi-purpose/soccer lighted artificial turf field.
Inaugural events included the T&T Sports 5th Annual Virginia Hoopfest the Hornets Red, White and Hoops youth basketball tournament and the first annual Firecracker 3v3 soccer tournament and the Shenandoah Valley Kennel Club SVKC summer agility trial.
“I’m proud of this facility,” says General Manager Ray Ellington. “At Horizons Edge, our vision is to harness the power of sports to change lives, empower athletes and use competition to bring out the best in all of us while creating lifelong memories.”
Sand Mountain Park & Amphitheater in Albertville, Alabama
Sand Mountain Park & Amphitheater in Albertville, Alabama, a 100,000-square-foot indoor facility, features a two-story fitness center, four hardwood courts, two group exercise studios, an indoor track, racquetball courts, an eight-lane indoor lap/competition pool, meeting/party rooms, wet and dry locker rooms and a concessions area.
The outdoor portion is extensive, with nine diamond turf fields, five long turf fields, a Miracle Baseball Field, 16 tennis courts, an outdoor water park, basketball courts, sand volleyball courts, two dog parks, a disc golf course, a 3.5 mile-walking/running trail, playgrounds, an RV park, concession areas and an outdoor amphitheater that seats 7,600.
“We are so excited to have the opportunity to dramatically improve the mental and physical health of our community while generating significant economic impact for Albertville and the surrounding region,” says General Manager Patrick O’Brien. “We will strive for excellence in every aspect of the user experience in order to be one of the finest sport, wellness and entertainment venues in America. Our team is diligently preparing for our fall baseball/softball tournaments and fall youth and adult recreational offerings. We can’t wait to see you at our park!”
Highlands Sports Complex in Triadelphia, West Virginia
Highlands Sports Complex, includes indoor and outdoor spaces for year-round sports and events. The 200,000-square-foot complex features six basketball courts, six volleyball courts, an indoor and outdoor turf field, fitness center, four batting cages/pitching tunnels, a play climb area, arcade, meeting and event spaces, a second floor mezzanine and café. Visitors can also get their adrenaline pumping on an Outdoor Adventure Course, which is comprised of a ropes course and zip lines.
General Manager Harvey Greenidge says events like the Ohio Players Basketball tournament next April will not only attract hundreds of athletes and fans to the complex, but also to local hotels, restaurants and shopping districts.
“One of the unique things about Highlands Sports Complex, other than the Adventure Course, is our dedication to advancing health, not only through sports, but throughout our building,” Greenidge says.
In fact, Highlands Sports Complex is on track to become the first and only sports complex in the world to achieve the International WELL Building Institute certification and RESET Air certification.
“We were delighted to work with AUROS Group in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to create a facility with the potential to have a big impact on the health and well-being of athletes and fans, along with our community as a whole,” Greenidge says. SDM