Sports planners who plan to venture west of the Mississippi River to host tournaments and events will find that the Pacific and Southwest regions of the country pack plenty of punch and offer an incredibly broad palette of scenery and attractions, with venues indoor and outdoor. Let’s work our way west, beginning in “The Sooner State” of Oklahoma.
Located in central Oklahoma with easy interstate access and a major airport, Edmond offers “the comfort of a small town and the amenities of a big city,” according to Jennifer Thornton, tourism director for Visit Edmond.
Facilities include Edmond Center Court, the United States Tennis Association’s Facility of the Year for 2022 that is a partnership between the City of Edmond and Edmond Public Schools and offers 24 outdoor tennis courts (including two championship courts) and six indoor courts; Edmond Schools Aquatic Center at Mitch Park, a competitive 50-meter swimming pool with grandstand seating that hosts state and regional meets; and KickingBird Golf, a 50-year-old municipal golf course that reopened to the public in June after an extensive renovation and now attracts regional and national tournaments.
Plano, one of several Texas destinations with easy accessibility whether driving or flying, is home to the Plano Sports Authority (PSA), an entity that oversees four 85,000-square-foot facilities that cater to basketball and volleyball while also accommodating martial arts, dance and cheer, gymnastics, badminton and wrestling, according to Alysha Carse, sales manager for Visit Plano Sports.
“PSA continues to support the youth sports community both locally with their leagues, camps and clinics, but also supports growth and development by hosting events big and small,” she says.
Additionally, Movement Plano is a 32,000-square-foot facility that welcomes local and national climbing competitions. Meanwhile, with 70 soccer fields available, more soccer tournaments beyond the annual Plano Youth Soccer Association’s Labor Day Classic (which attracts more than 500 teams) are on the city’s radar.
Corpus Christi, Texas
Head about 400 miles south of Plano and you’ll wind up in Corpus Christi, home of a year-old sports commission on a mission to brand the city as the “Gulf Coast Capital for Sports.” Indeed, the city’s location on the Gulf of Mexico makes it an obvious destination for a wide array of water sports. And thanks to average windspeeds of 17 miles per hour, Corpus Christi is placing added emphasis on kiteboarding, according to Joey Jewell, executive director of the Corpus Christi Sports Commission.
But the city also has plenty of venues on land, including the American Bank Center, which offers about 100,000 square feet of space for ball and mat sports plus a 10,500-seat arena; Cabaniss Athletic Complex, which can accommodate football, track and field, soccer, softball and baseball with six synthetic turf fields; the Corpus Christi ISD Natatorium, with an eight-lane Olympic-size pool and two 3-meter and three 1-meter diving boards; the HEB Tennis Center, with 25 lighted outdoor courts; and Bill Witt Park, which offers 12 multi-purpose grass fields and four baseball fields.
In West Texas, Pecos is home to Cyclone Ballparks, a premier facility that opened in 2021 and offers five synthetic turf diamond fields with concession stands, batting cages, a press box and shade structures.
“We are a ‘Gem in the Desert,’” says Cathy Garcia, general manager of Cyclone Ballparks. “Pecos is known as a baseball and softball community. We take pride in our hospitality and enjoy showcasing our town to our visitors.”
Cyclone Ballparks will host the United States Specialty Sports Association’s Labor Day Classic fastpitch tournament in September, one of the complex’s marquee events. Pastime Tournaments also will run baseball showcases at Cyclone Ballparks in 2024, Garcia says, and discussions are underway to host select games for the independent Pecos League of Professional Baseball Clubs next spring.
The facility also welcomes high school games, Little League games and other youth sports events, and the mild climate in Pecos attracts teams from Northern states during the winter, she adds.
Tucson is about as “south” and “west” as you can get in the United States, and it boasts a mild winter climate that makes the city an ideal sports tourism destination in fall, winter and spring, according to Nick Pazzi, director of Tucson Sports. It is also surrounded by Sonoran Desert beauty that includes mountains and a variety of cacti.
The city hosts Major League Soccer and United Soccer League preseason games every year, and it has welcomed the National Junior College Athletic Association’s Division II Men’s and Women’s Soccer Championships, all at the three-venue Kino Sports Complex. The complex accommodates soccer, baseball and other field sports, and an expansion slated for completion in fall 2025 will add an ice facility and a fieldhouse. Other venues capable of hosting major events are the Tucson Convention Center/Arena and the Oro Valley Aquatic Center.
Head west out of Tucson and you’ll eventually reach Ontario, which is less than 40 miles from Los Angeles. In the buildup to the 2028 Summer Olympics in L.A., Ontario is looking to host as many regional and national amateur sporting events as possible, according to Arlette Garibay, director of sales for the Greater Ontario Convention & Visitors Bureau, which powers the Greater Ontario Sports & Entertainment Authority.
There are plenty of venues to host those events, too, including Toyota Arena and the Ontario Convention Center. On the calendar for later this year and into next year are the 2023 US Open Table Tennis Championships and the 2024 USA Judo Senior National Championships. In July, Ontario hosted the Elite Clubs National League Boys’ National Finals in soccer.
“[We] can assist with securing venues by making appropriate introductions to venue managers and other key players,” Garibay says. “Over 37 venues include prime locations for any sport.”
Practically due north of Ontario sits Fresno, conveniently located to consistently draw sports participants from both Southern and Northern California.
“Fresno is in the middle of the state, three hours from most major cities in California, and we are a very drivable market,” says Andrew Smith, director of sales for the Fresno/Clovis Convention & Visitors Bureau. “We are always looking at new sports and trying to maximize all of our great facilities, especially our outdoor venues, due to our optimal weather most of the year.”
A pair of stadiums (Fresno State University’s Valley Children’s Stadium and Buchanan High School’s Veteran’s Memorial Stadium), a multi-purpose arena (Fresno State’s Save Mart Center) and a baseball stadium (Chukchansi Park) highlight the city’s venues, which host everything from high-profile track and field championships to statewide wrestling and taekwondo competitions.
Snohomish County, Washington
Just as Tucson is about as “southwest” as you can get, Snohomish County is about as “Pacific Northwest (or PNW, as the locals say)” as you can go. With the Cascade Mountains to the east and the Salish Sea to the west, the county is home to Kayak Point Disc Golf Resort in Stanwood, which has been hosting disc golf tournaments since March 2022; Meadowdale Athletic Complex in Lynnwood, which offers five baseball/softball fields; Phil Johnson Ballfields in Everett, which has four turf fields; Angel of the Winds Arena in Everett, a 10,000-seat arena that hosts hockey, cornhole, figure skating, wrestling, gymnastics, cheer and dance, tennis and basketball; and Stocker Fields in Snohomish, which can accommodate up to 16 grass fields for lacrosse, Ultimate and soccer.
Stocker Fields is one reason the Snohomish County Sports Commission is seeking more ultimate disc tournaments, according to Tammy Dunn, the commission’s executive director. Sports events confirmed for Snohomish County later this year and next year are the 2023 Nike Hole in the Wall Invitational, a major cross country meet for high school and middle school runners that has been held in Lakewood for more than 30 years; and the 2024 USA Softball Class B 14U-18U Western Nationals in Everett and Lynnwood at Meadowdale Athletic Complex, Kasch Park and Phil Johnson Ballfields.
The county also hosted state and national gymnastics, wrestling, baseball, disc golf, soccer and 3x3 basketball tournaments this year. SDM