Even those who profess not to like science fiction recognize these words from the intro to TV’s Star Trek:
Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its continuing mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no one has gone before.
Setting aside the galactic hyperbole, can’t we all relate? It’s easy to feel like an explorer, particularly when it comes to finding new destinations to keep our sports events fresh and exciting, year after year. After all, it’s a trip out of our comfort zone and into the unknown.
For that reason, SDM would like to provide its readers with a star chart, as it were. On the following pages, you will find some of America’s up and coming destinations. Some you may have heard of, some you may not have considered in relation to the sports mentioned. All, however, have friendly, skilled staff, eager to answer your questions and tell you all about their cities and what they have to offer. And whether your sport plays out on a field, in a pool, in a show ring or anywhere else, chances are, you’ll find the perfect host among these destinations. We invite you to call on them and start charting your own voyage into the future.
Morgan Hill, California
Once limited to local soccer use, in recent years the Morgan Hill Outdoor Sports Center (OSC) has become a multi-sport, international facility. Since assuming control in 2010, the Morgan Hill Youth Sports Alliance (MHYSA) has hosted over 150 tournaments and events there. “While once thought of as 11 soccer fields, what we really have here is 38 acres that can be formatted for any field sport or event”, observed OSC GM Dave Payne.
That flexibility has been proven by users that include US Lacrosse, USA Ultimate Frisbee, USYS Region IV, Pop Warner football and most recently, at the United States Dog Agility Association (USDAA) CynoSport World Championship. “Our competitors loved the facility, the weather, the location and town. For us, the support we received from the facility staff and local providers was outstanding”, says USDAA Vice President Andy Hartman.
Morgan Hill, located just south of San Jose is an unlikely setting for a sports and recreation mecca with its small town charm, quaint downtown and rural feel, but that is exactly what the town is becoming. “Come see one of the best kept secrets in the west”, invites MHYSA President Jeff Dixon, “You’ll be glad you did.”
The San Francisco Bay Area’s Tri-Valley is noted for its café-lined downtowns, award-winning wine country, custom car scene, outdoor recreation and designer outlet shopping. Nestled in the hills just 30 miles east of Fisherman’s Wharf, the region enjoys an average of 264 days of sunshine a year; truly making it “the sunny side of the Bay.” This confluence of three valleys holds five cities: Pleasanton, Livermore, San Ramon, Dublin and the town of Danville.
But it’s not just the incredible weather and landscape that make this area worth visiting. Filled with young energy, the Tri-Valley is booming at an exponential rate. In fact, Livermore, named one of Business Insider’s Hottest Neighborhoods in America for 2013, boasts a median age of 35. Pleasanton was recently chosen as one of USA Today’s Top 5 of America’s Best Cities to live in.
So, when it comes to trying what’s new, the Tri-Valley is a great place to start. It’s original mix of Silicon Valley tech heads, ranchers, winemakers, scientists and young families make the Tri-Valley a worthy alternative to the been-there-done-that Northern California mainstays.
The City of Gainesville and Alachua County, Florida
The City of Gainesville and Alachua County, Florida, continue to be known as a strong sports community, being home to championship teams including multiple NCAA titles. Recently, the area has grown its sports market by expanding into youth baseball and fast pitch softball with a new facility.
Located in North Central Florida, Champions Park of Newberry is the newest facility and the premier baseball/softball tournament and training complex in the entire country. The 16 field state-of-the-art complex with all turf infields and grass outfields nearly eliminates rainouts during tournaments. It is conveniently located near Gainesville, which is known for its small-town atmosphere and family-friendly environment.
During a break in the tournament or training, athletes and their families can enjoy Alachua County, Florida’s, great amenities like watching a University of Florida athletics game, dining and shopping downtown or floating down our natural springs and rivers. This truly is a state-of-the-art complex built with the player, coach, parent and family in mind. Each person traveling to Champions Park will have an enjoyable baseball and softball experience where “We are all Champions.”
The Gainesville Sports Commission invites you to visit Alachua County, FL and Champions Park by contacting us today at 352-338-9300 or log on to www.gainesvillesportscommission.com.
Located on Southwest Florida's Gulf Coast, Sarasota County tops the class in competitive play. Area facilities range from a world-class aquatics and rowing facility to a Major League spring training stadium. With lawn bowling greens, equestrian venues and a newly renovated state-of-the-art swimming and aquatic center, Sarasota County has the amenities to offer the very best competitive sporting opportunities for participants and spectators.
Over the next few years, Sarasota County will play host to high-profile sporting events in swimming, soccer, pentathlon and rowing. In addition, Sarasota County will welcome the world for the 2017 World Rowing Championships, alongside neighboring Bradenton.
Along with being Sarasota County’s top tourist attractions, Siesta Key, Lido Key, Longboat Key and Venice beaches are some of the area’s most popular sports facilities. They offer ideal locations for beach volleyball with space for 40 courts at Siesta Key Beach alone and are excellent spots for triathlons and other races.
Providing easy access from the interstate and the Sarasota Bradenton International Airport and with proximity to charming arts and culture, top-rated beaches, shopping and delectable dining, Sarasota County offers much to do away from the event.
For more information visit www.PlaySarasota.org.
Triathlons are a fast-growing sport and much of that can be contributed to the increase in youth participation. Alpharetta, Georgia, is home to one of the largest kids triathlons in the country, IRONKIDS ALPHARETTA, where athletes ages 6-15 from across the region come to compete in this multisport event.
Alpharetta has hosted IRONKIDS for the past five years and has seen first-hand the growth and enthusiasm for the sport. The city is the perfect site for an event where safety is paramount: young athletes swim in a pool, bike on closed roads and run on paved walkways and grass through a park. And there is no shortage of enthusiasm and support for all athletes.
Each triathlon has three components: swim, bike and run so in many respects, it is just another chance for kids to do what comes naturally. Race distances vary with age and are designed to be challenging yet possible with a minimum of preparation. IRONKIDS puts the emphasis on fitness, safety and fun, encouraging youth through sport and competition to lead healthy lifestyles. They are focused on creating positive and encouraging atmospheres for athletes, families and communities, while also promoting achievement, determination and self-confidence.
The next time kids will tri it is September 13, 2015 in Alpharetta, Georgia. Visit www.awesomealpharetta.com for details.
The Bloomington-Normal Area offers a key location, first-class facilities, Midwest hospitality, and an experienced sports commission. Located at the junction of three interstates, Bloomington-Normal is centrally located in the heart of Illinois between Chicago and St. Louis. A regional airport and Amtrak station make traveling here convenient. With state-of-the-art, adaptable facilities, over 3,000 hotel rooms, and over 200 dining options, we’ve got it all for year-round events.
Some of the facilities Bloomington-Normal offers include:
The U.S. Cellular Coliseum, a first-class community entertainment center with more than 180,000 square feet of space and seating for 8,000.
Champion Fields, which boasts 10 lighted softball fields and seating for 2,300.
The Corn Crib, a state-of-the-art, multi-purpose stadium with a capacity of 7,000.
Redbird Arena on the campus of Illinois State University has close-to-the-court seating and capacity of 10,200.
Illinois Wesleyan University’s Shirk Center, a multi-purpose athletic and recreation complex with seating for 2,400.
The Den at Fox Creek, an Arnold Palmer signature-designed golf course.
Over 200 dining options.
The Bloomington-Normal Area Convention and Visitors Bureau and Sports Commission are ready to assist you from site selection through post-event follow-up to ensure your event’s success. Host your next event there and you’ll see that Bloomington-Normal is serious about sports.
Peoria, Illinois, is upping its sports events game with top-of-the-line facilities, lodging and the exciting development of the state-of-the-art Louisville Slugger Complex. This all-season sports dome, outfitted with 10 synthetic turf fields, will host games and tournaments for a variety of sports teams. The Louisville Slugger Complex aims to create the “baseball experience” for America’s youth, and Peoria, boasting baseball greats like future Hall of Famer Jim Thome and New York Yankees Manager Joe Girardi, is the perfect fit.
The Peoria Civic Center has been home to another legend for nearly two decades: the Illinois High School Association’s March Madness tournament. Large-scale sporting events are right at home in the 11,433-seat Carver Arena and the 110,000 square foot Exhibit Hall.
Detweiller Park, with its IHSA State Cross Country Course and 18 tournament fields, is ideal for races, soccer tournaments and other outdoor events. Hockey tournaments are played year-round at the Owens Center indoor ice rink, which includes two full-size rinks. Whatever the event, Peoria has a facility to suit your needs.
Peoria is located halfway between Chicago and St. Louis. There are more than 4,000 hotel rooms available for your event. For information on these and other Peoria sports facilities, visit enjoypeoria.com.
Tangipahoa Parish, Louisiana
Located at the Crossroads of the South, Tangipahoa Parish is quickly becoming known for its sports facilities, affordable accommodations and easy travel access.
Tangipahoa Parish is ideally located at the intersection of I-55 and I-12. The sports facilities are 55 miles north of New Orleans, 45 miles east of Baton Rouge, and 85 miles west of the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Along with the easy travel, Tangipahoa Parish has over 1,000 hotel rooms, ranging from full-service accommodations to rooms only.
As for the sports complexes, Tangipahoa Parish has set the standards. There are four active recreation districts with first-class baseball, softball and soccer fields. For indoor sports, there are a number of excellent basketball and volleyball courts.
Plus, Tangipahoa Parish is fortunate to have Southeastern Louisiana University situated in Hammond. As a member of the NCAA and Southland Conference, Southeastern hosts a number of conference championship football, baseball, soccer, basketball and outdoor track and cross country tournaments.
Tangipahoa Parish is on the move with its sports facilities and invites planners and event owners to learn what the area can offer. Tangipahoa Parish Convention and Visitors Bureau: www.tangitourism.com.
Southern New Jersey
With an eclectic mix of opportunities, the Philadelphia suburbs of southern New Jersey have become an attractive destination for rowing events, equestrian competitions and youth sports tournaments. And while the area has always offered great product to accommodate these activities, the profile of South Jersey has been elevated over the last few years by the emergence of a burgeoning wine region, producing some award-winning wines.
While individual, specialized sporting venues like the Cooper River in Camden County for rowing, and the DREAM Park in Gloucester County for equestrian events, can stand on their own in attracting visitors to South Jersey, the added value of being located within an official American Viticultural Area, or AVA (basically a fancy way of saying “wine region”), has more eyes on South Jersey than ever before. Visitors in the area for sporting events now have opportunities to spend their downtime engaging in agricultural, culinary and wine experiences that are completely unexpected so close to the major metropolitan areas of Philadelphia, Baltimore and New York City.
South Jersey – come for the Cooper River’s sheltered, narrow, six lane, 2,000 meter rowing course, the DREAM Park’s world-class equestrian facilities or the numerous outdoor tournament venues – stay for some of the East Coast’s finest wine!
Albany, New York
Over the past four centuries, Albany has grown from a small Dutch settlement into New York State's Capital City in the heart of burgeoning Tech Valley. Albany’s location at the Crossroads of the Northeast makes travel to and from our destination’s sports venues a breeze.
From the NCAA Division I Frozen Four, Sweet Sixteen and Wrestling Championships to the Annual USATF sanctioned Freihofer's Run for Women 5K, sporting events in Albany have a history of success. Opening in 2017, planners now have the opportunity to consider the Capital Center for upcoming sports events. Connected to the Times Union Center arena and Empire State Plaza Convention Center, the Capital Center and Complex will be the perfect venue to host your next sporting event.
The Albany County Convention & Visitors Bureau team has been assisting sporting event planners for more than 35 years. The expertise of our staff, the attention to detail for each event, and a commitment to helping create a successful experience for participants and fans make Albany a desirable destination for sports event planners.
For more information on hosting events in Albany or to learn more about the Capital Center, please call 800-258-3582 ext. 301 or visit www.albany.org/meet.
Fayetteville, North Carolina
There are few communities in the world that can compete with the military history and tradition of Fayetteville, Cumberland County. Whether you’re looking for a full-scale weekend tournament or a mid-size summer camp, Fort Bragg Communities has everything you need. From soccer to basketball, skeet shooting to fishing, racquetball to wrestling, our excellent facilities and highly trained staff stand ready to serve, along with an entire region steeped in patriotism and a love of country.
The Fort Bragg Communities Visitors Bureau offers a full-service support team to help tournament directors and sports event planners pull off the perfect event, no matter what the sport. In addition, our new mobile tools and online resources give out-of-town guests and event participants access to a variety of new tools and resources to help them make the most of our wide range of community assets and attractions during their time here.
What’s happening in Findlay? What ISN’T happening! With new fields on the way, as well as the recent additions of a performing arts center, children’s museum, newly-built and renovated hotels and countless shops and restaurants, Findlay, Ohio, is growing by leaps and bounds.
Home to award-winning baseball, softball and soccer fields, as well as an ice rink and outdoor competitive swimming facilities, this destination has something for everyone. With a strong local athletic presence, as well as a proven record of hosting events on a regional and national scale, its staff can accommodate the unique needs of any event.
Conveniently located along I-75, and within 90 miles of four major airports, Findlay knows how to welcome visiting teams. Its big city amenities and hometown atmosphere, combined with affordable rates, lovely hotels, one-of-a-kind shopping and dining, and family-friendly activities are sure to make all tournament experiences top-notch.
For more information, contact the Hancock County Convention & Visitors Bureau at 1-800-424-3315, and learn more about Findlay, Ohio at VisitFindlay.com.
Ohio’s Lake Erie Shores & Islands and Cedar Point Amusement Park
In the roller coaster capital of the world, many are trying to outpace those speed machines with their feet. Ohio’s Lake Erie Shores & Islands has become known as a world-class foot-race destination, capitalizing on a wonderful partnership with Cedar Point.
Newly attracted to the destination in 2014 was a successful Color Run, known as “the Happiest 5K on the Planet.” The inaugural race that celebrates health, happiness, and individuality attracted 4,000 colorful participants.
The Santa Hustle race series first chose the destination in 2012, and has since expanded their annual December event to include running both 5K and Half-Marathon entirely inside the amusement park – a rare wintertime treat.
Revolution3 Triathlon, now known as the Challenge Triathlon Series, has been hosting an annual weekend of racing each September since 2010. The triathlon not only utilizes the amusement park as a host venue, starting and finish point, but also takes advantage of the destination’s natural beauty by swimming in Lake Erie, biking the picturesque countryside outside the park and running through downtown Sandusky.
Whether the race is about competition or a cause, runners finish feeling embraced by the enthusiastic cheers and encouragement provided by local volunteers and admirers along the way.
Situated on the shores of Lake Erie in the northwestern corner of Pennsylvania, Erie provides its visitors with both a stunning natural backdrop and an urban setting for sports of all kinds. The region has become a prime destination for sports, attracting events from across the country to our shores. Erie is known for its waterfront, but it’s so much more.
Erie boasts venues that are accommodating for many types of events, both indoor and outdoor. Presque Isle State Park is an Erie landmark – a natural, 3,200-acre forested peninsula that features seven miles of beautiful beaches and hosts more than 90 sports events each year, including running, swimming, boating, fishing, beach soccer and volleyball. The Erie Insurance Arena was renovated in 2013, and can seat up to 6,700 for ice hockey, and 6,900 for basketball. The Bayfront Convention Center showcases stunning views of Presque Isle Bay and offers more than 100,000 square feet of space, an adjoining 200-room hotel, and a second 191-room hotel set to open in 2016.
With these state-of-the-art venues, more than 4,000 hotel rooms, and the support of the Erie Sports Commission, Erie is an ideal destination for sports of any kind.
Easley, South Carolina
Easley, South Carolina, loves sports, and hosting the Big League World Series (as seen on ESPN) for the past 14 years is just one testament to the passion the city has.
Easley’s 140-acre complex offers eight baseball and six soccer, lacrosse and football fields. Also on site is a 50,000 square foot gymnasium that has hosted basketball, volleyball, gymnastics, dance, cheerleading, fencing and trade shows. The complex along with Easley’s four county high schools (all opened in 2012), allow the city to host almost any size sporting event imaginable.
Easley, South Carolina, is located just 10 minutes off Interstate 85 with Charlotte to the north and Atlanta to the south. GSP International Airport is approximately 30 minutes away.
Easley boasts over 100 dining destinations within 10 minutes of our sports complex and plenty of hotel rooms within a short drive from all venues.
For those who still feel the need to venture out, downtown Greenville, South Carolina, is just 10 minutes away and Clemson University is only 20 minutes away.
For more information on the sports facilities, the city, and what is has to offer, please visit SportsEasley.com.
Come see what southern hospitability is all about.
Extraco Events Center, Texas
The Extraco Events Center, home of the Heart of Texas Fair & Rodeo, is the center of entertainment in Central Texas. Its mission is to produce events for education, entertainment and agricultural experiences at the premier multi-use facility while giving back through youth scholarships and having a positive economic impact to Central Texas.
In the early 1950s, McLennan County voters elected to put $1.2 million towards a new entertainment and agricultural venue, culminating in the construction of the iconic Coliseum and surrounding grounds in 1953. From 2000 to 2005, all the facilities and grounds underwent renovations and/or reconstruction.
Today, the Events Center has grown to cover 50 acres of land containing modernized facilities, 700 stalls, 250 RV hook-ups and parking areas able to accommodate over 3800 vehicles. Its facilities consist of the Coliseum, Back Porch Club, Show Pavilion, General Exhibits Building, Creative Arts Building and Stall Barn. The premier facilities host over 225 events with an attendance of420,000 and a $47 million economic impact annually.