Go West: Sports Facilities, Natural and Man-Made, Abound Here
25 Aug, 2014By: Jenny Wierschem
Everyone knows the big-name cities throughout the Southwest and Pacific Coast of the United States. But throughout the region, smaller cities and their surrounding counties offer complete sports tournament capabilities and experiences, their appeal sweetened with attractive pricing and family-friendly features.
These destinations are nestled among some of the country’s most dramatic landscapes, adding interest to sports tournaments that draw from across the country and beyond. Most importantly, they have the expertise and facilities to support successful tournaments and events.
Bryan-College Station, Texas
The sister cities of Bryan and College Station, Texas are geographically seated in the middle of a triangle formed by Dallas, Houston, and Austin. The area is home to Texas A&M University.
The two cities work together to leverage public facilities, those at Texas A&M, and private facilities, to meet the needs for a range of sports events. The City of College Station’s Veterans Park and Athletic Complex is a popular facility for soccer and softball. The complex has 11 soccer fields, nine natural grass and two synthetic turf. There also are five softball fields. Additionally, Veterans Park accommodates football and recently hosted the state 7-on-7 Tournament.
The Brazos County Expo is home to rodeos and horse shows and was recently the site of the 2014 American Quarter Horse Youth World Cup, with representation from 16 countries. The facility has two outdoor covered arenas, meeting space and a ballroom, among other amenities.
Whether it’s negotiating a preferred access agreement with Texas A&M or working with the various facilities, Kindra Register Fry, vice president of sales and marketing for the Bryan College Station Convention and Visitors Bureau says the area has a cooperative spirit that makes for a positive visitor experience.
“The people who work at those facilities are some of the best to work with,” she says. “There’s not a hard conversation to have. We are all working for the greater good—and that is for a great visitor experience.”
Morgan Hill, California
Morgan Hill, population 48,000, is located just south of San Jose in the southern end of the Santa Clara Valley. Jeff Dixon is president of the Morgan Hill Youth Sports Alliance (MHYSA), a nonprofit that supports youth participation in sports. MHYSA also runs the Morgan Hill Outdoor Sports Center, a major player in hosting tournaments in the area.
“The facility itself is a jewel,” says Dixon. “It is the only one of its kind in Northern California.”
The center has 11 soccer fields, including two synthetic turf fields with lighting. Fields can be configured for multiple sports.
The facility is very flexible,” says Dixon. “We have the capability of hosting any rectangle-field sport, up to and including quiddich. We can customize the field configuration to meet the tournament’s needs, and provide resources in terms of marshals, first aid and even tournament support staff.”
Morgan Hill Outdoor Sports Center is next door to the world-class Morgan Hill Aquatics Center and has parking for 1,000 vehicles and is in walking distance to 500 hotel rooms.
Snohomish County, Washington
Snohomish County is a draw for regional, national, and international championships, thanks to its surrounding natural beauty, ease of access, and facilities.
In July, the Everett Community College Fitness Center was one of the sites used for the Midsummer Night’s Madness National Championships, a Certified NCAA Viewing Period tournament. The center’s main gymnasium has retractable bleacher seating for about 2,250 spectators. The center has athlete and official locker rooms, as well as a multi-purpose room suitable for awards, media, officials and more.
Lake Tye Park in Monroe, Washington, has two baseball/softball fields, two tennis courts and concessions and a playground area. A highlight of the park is a 41-acre man-made lake, popular for triathlons and wakeboarding competitions.
Also in Snohomish County, the small community of Darrington is home to the only permanent world-class archery range in the United States, offering five ranges with 28 targets each. Roughly every three years, the range is home to the National Field Archery Association Outdoor Field Nationals.
“It’s also an area that if you like the outdoors—hiking, camping, whitewater rafting—that’s Darrington: outdoor adventure. It’s still a hidden gem that not many people know about,” says Tammy Dunn, sports development manager for the Snohomish County Sports Commission.
Round Rock, Texas
Round Rock in Central Texas bills itself as the Sports Capital of Texas because of its focus on youth and amateur sports.
“Our location is fantastic for tournament and event holders as it is a three-hour drive for 90 percent of the population of Texas,” says Nancy Yawn, director of the Round Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau.
The Round Rock Sports Center is a state-of-the-art indoor facility that opened its doors early this year. It has 12 volleyball courts, six basketball courts, 47,000 square feet of open space for play and a seating capacity of 1,300. It also has locker rooms, a training room, conference space, concessions capabilities, LED scoreboards and more.
Another of Round Rocks premiere sports facilities is Old Settlers Park, which can accommodate soccer, cricket, disc golf, volleyball, tennis and other sports. The park has a 20-field baseball complex and five-field softball complex.
“In Old Settlers Park, we are currently building out 75 acres of multi-purpose fields, so that will be a great addition, with big, open fields for soccer, lacrosse, football—anything that requires a large playing area,” says Yawn.
Stockton is home to the furthest inland shipping port in the United States, which connects with the San Francisco Bay, and makes for a popular waterfront area for rowing competitions.
The Stockton Arena, also along the waterfront, is a key facility in the city’s sports event landscape. The arena has an NHL-regulation ice sheet, seating from 8,600–12,000, conference space and other amenities. The arena recently hosted the 2014 U.S. National Baton Twirling Championships over six days.
Stockton is home to the University of the Pacific, which is an active partner in hosting many sports events in the area. The capabilities there are expanding.
“They are building a new soccer stadium, a new field hockey stadium, and new tennis courts,” says Tim Pasisz, sports development director for Visit Stockton. “It will be in phases. They hope to have the soccer and field hockey done this September, but then the total construction will be another two to three years.”
Lawton Fort Sill, Oklahoma
Lawton Fort Sill in southwestern Oklahoma provides the amenities of bigger neighbors such as Oklahoma City or Dallas, but with smaller town manageability and prices.
“You name it, we can do it,” says Tanna Vu, tourism director for the Lawton-Fort Sill Chamber of Commerce. “We have that large metropolitan feel, but with that small community welcome.”
The area hosts sports events including soccer, baseball, rodeo, basketball, archery and more. Golf tournaments can find a home at one of the area’s two premiere golf courses: Fort Sill Golf Course and Lawton Country Club Golf Course.
Soccer’s popularity in the area is evident from the Big Green Soccer Complex, with 34 available fields hosting up to 90 games each Saturday. Rodeo is big in Lawton Fort Sill, with the Lawton Rangers PRCA Rodeo and Oklahoma High School Rodeo Association events being big draws at the LO Ranch Arena.
Lubbock, in West Texas, is the home of Texas Tech University, as well as several other colleges and universities. Lubbock has capabilities for hosting baseball, basketball, bowling, football, golf, swimming and diving and more.
Lubbock Indoor Courts is a recent addition to Lubbock’s sports event hosting capabilities mix.
“That is a brand new facility, and they are doing well,” says Alyssa Kitten, communications coordinator for Visit Lubbock.
The facility has a total of eight courts, including four hardwood, regulation-size basketball/volleyball courts and four courts with multi-purpose flooring for hosting a range of sports.
Hotel options are growing in the area, with many new hotels becoming available for visitors.
“We have a number of new hotels that are just finishing construction and are about to open up, that just broke ground or are in the planning stage,” says Kitten. “There are a number of new hotels that will be open in the next year and in the next three to five years.”