With dozens of top-notch sports venues and the ability to host events year around, it's no wonder that the sporting climate in Harlingen, Texas, is as good as its weather.
Harlingen is located in south Texas, in the heart of the Rio Grande Valley. This city of nearly 70,000 people offers big-city sports amenities, with the ease-of-use, friendliness and lower prices that can only be found in a smaller town.
"Harlingen is the hub for sporting events in the area, with state-of-the-art facilities to suit any youth team," says Nydia Tapia Gonzales, executive director of the Harlingen Convention and Visitors Bureau. "Not only do we offer the perfect climate, we're the perfect destination for event planners who are sensitive to today's economy."
Outdoor sports thrive in Harlingen
There aren't many places in the United States that can deliver on the promise of outdoor sports 12 months a year. Harlingen can.
"We have terrific weather almost everyday of the year - with lots of sun. It's simply great for sports," said Gonzales.
One sport that is prominent in the area is softball, with more than 12 USSSA events throughout the season, as well as PONY tournaments, including the PONY national championships in 2008 and 2009. Most take place at the Wilson Sports Complex, which expanded a few years ago to accommodate the PONY national championships.
"Everyone from the mayor to the city commissioners to the city manager bent over backwards to bring the tournament to Harlingen; the attention they paid to our needs was exceptional. I doubt we would have received such an impressive amount of cooperation in a larger city," says John Brown, regional director for the PONY baseball and softball league. "Furthermore, Harlingen is one of the few areas where baseball and softball leagues work together; people go out of their way to help you."
Soccer is beloved in Harlingen and its tournaments regularly draw thousands of players and spectators. The Harlingen Arroyo Youth Soccer Club hosts popular tournaments such as the Trick or Treat Cup every Halloween for children ages four to 12.
"It's a fall festival that draws about 90 teams from as far as Corpus Christi, Laredo and San Antonio," said Jesse Villarreal, tournament director. "It has booths for the kids and is a lot of fun."
Another popular event is the International Holiday Cup, held at Christmastime, which draws more than 90 teams from throughout the state, as well as outside of Texas and northern Mexico.
"During the Holiday Cup, the weather is ideal - and the setting can't be beat. The soccer complex is new and can host all the teams at one place. Everyone just loves playing here,"said Villarreal.
In addition, the Harlingen Arroyo Youth Soccer Club hosts a tournament every March, as well as the Harlingen Labor Day Cup, both for children ages four to 18.
"These soccer events usually bring about 1,500 players to our city, along with several thousand more people as coaches, family members and spectators," said Gonzales. "It's wonderful to have them here,knowing that we have the top-notch facilities and amenities to make their events - and stay - everything they could hope for."
Jalapeño 100 Ride, Run & Walk
For the past 20 years,the Jalapeño Hundred Ride, Run & Walk has been a fun ride benefiting Harlingen Youth Athletics, Harlingen Boys & Girls Club and several other not for profit organizations. Last year, it drew nearly 700 riders from the around the state and across the country, as well as Canada and Mexico. It features a 5K walk, a 10K run and a 100-mile cycling ride that loops from Harlingen to Port Isabel on the Gulf of Mexico and back.
Top-Notch Facilities Make Sports Event Planning a Breeze
Harlingen Soccer Complex
The new state-of -the-art soccer complex boasts of 10 regulation-size fields, six of them lighted. Two championship fields at the front of the complex are lit with higher foot-candles for those intense final matches. And for parents and spectators looking to get some exercise themselves during the soccer games, there's a scenic 1.2 mile trail that winds around the complex. With 650 parking spaces, covered pavilion, irrigation ponds and a concession stand, the Harlingen Soccer Complex provides everything for a successful tournament.
Wilson Sports Complex
Recent improvements to the Wilsons Sports Complex's softball/baseball fields ensure the facility remains a top destination for both softball and baseball tournaments. With four lighted softball fields, eight youth baseball fields (four lighted), two soccer fields, two basketball courts,a fishing pond and pier, and jogging trail, the complex lives up to its name. Plus, the Wilson Sports Complex features plenty of recreational activities for families and athletes once the event is over, including a handicap-accessible playground, covered picnic shelter and park pavilion with barbecue pit.
HEB Tennis Center
For tennis players and tennis events in southern Texas, the HEB Tennis Center is the place to be. With 14 lighted courts, the facility even features five courts with covered benches for players. There are 550 total seats to accommodate spectators, and the facility recently hosted a USTA Pro Tennis Tournament.
This 47-acre park is home to the HEB Tennis center along with six Little League baseball fields. It also features a park pavilion with barbecue pit, playground and scenic pond with a freedom fountain.
With its exceptional weather, numerous golf courses and large population of retirees, it's no wonder that Harlingen is a haven for golf players. Harlingen's courses include the Tony Butler Municipal Golf Course, Treasure Hills Country Club, Harlingen Country Club, Cottonwood XXI, Fairwinds Course and Sunshine County Club Estates, along with Rancho Viejo on the outskirts of town. Plus, Gonzales noted that there are 10 more golf courses within a 50 mile radius.
Harlingen is home to one of the nation's top amateur invitationals, the Life Begins at 40 Golf Tournament, is a week-long golf and social event that's been going strong since 1952.
"If you're hosting a golf tournament and want to keep costs low, Harlingen should be at the top of your list," says Steve Hollon, coordinator of the event. "Furthermore, we're very golf-oriented here and have successfully hosted some important tournaments over the years, like the LPGA and Pan-Am Classics."
Convenient hotels, restaurants and airports make coming - and staying - easy.
For a town of its size, Harlingen is packed with 18 hotels, ranging from Super 8 to Courtyard by Marriott, offering more than 1,200 rooms. Dozens of restaurants give visitors a taste of the area's cuisine. And traveling to Harlingen is easy. Harlingen's Valley International Airport has direct flights on Southwest, Continental and Sun Country airlines. Or for a wider range of carriers, visitors can fly in and out of McAllen or Brownsville, both about 20 miles in either direction.
"People who come for tourneys travel with the whole family. We have access to nature, including the beach at South Padre Island and fishing at Port Isabel and Port Mansfield. Everything is within a short drive - and our city has no traffic jams. There's great shopping and delicious Tex-Mex food. Best of all, the prices are terrific," said Gonzales. "It's an easy place to come, have a great time and not spend a lot."
Harlingen's Convention and Visitors Bureau rolls out the welcome mat to the city's visitors and sporting event planners. They provide event planners assistance with booking hotels and even providing transportation, if needed. Because of the city's smaller size, they're able to sit down with event planners to help determine what they need - and then make it happen, which typically doesn't happen in a larger city.
"In Harlingen, it's simple. We love to welcome people," Gonzales said.