Sports in America’s Heartland
17 Nov, 2016By: Kathleen A. DeMarco
Midwestern Destinations Offer Natural and Man-Made Venues
Mention the Midwest and you get an image of all that is American and traditional. But the area is also home to some of the most cutting-edge sports venues, both indoor and outdoor. Discover (or rediscover) what this area has to offer.
South Sioux City, Nebraska
In the heart of "Siouxland" where three states come together is South Sioux City, Nebraska, the 20-year host of NAIA Division II Women’s Basketball Championship Tournament and host of the NAIA Volleyball Championships. Both events are held at the 7,500-seat Tyson Events Center which also hosts Sioux City Musketeers Junior Hockey and the Sioux City Bandits, 2015 Champions Indoor Football League title holder.
Indoor sports are not the only attraction in South Sioux City; Klasey Park-Voss Field is home to South Sioux City Legion Baseball and the South Sioux City Cardinal Baseball, and hosts multiple tournaments each summer including District and State Tournaments. “We are eager to host more regional baseball and softball tournaments," said Jim Steele, president of the South Sioux City Area Chamber & CVB. “Siouxland has a number of baseball complexes with lighted fields, an important factor for selecting tournament sites."
South Sioux City's Jeffrey C. Dible Soccer Complex, home to the Diablos youth indoor and outdoor soccer teams, offers 12 fields for indoor and outdoor play.
The Chamber, CVB and Siouxland schools partner during the school year to offer school facilities for basketball tournaments. Incentives to groups include hotel room rebates of up to 10 percent to the organizing body.
Hamilton County, Indiana
One of the fastest-growing counties in the country, Hamilton County, Indiana, is just north of Indianapolis and offers a variety of state-of-the-art venues sports venues, making it an easily-accessible and increasingly popular destination.
At the center of it all, the 400-acre Grand Park Sports Campus features 26 baseball and softball diamonds, three of which are full synthetic turf, and 31 multi-purpose fields for soccer, football and lacrosse. The Grand Park Events Center adds three full-size indoor soccer fields, and The Jonathan Byrd’s Fieldhouse completes the destination with eight courts for indoor basketball and volleyball.
National events hosted there include the US Lacrosse National Championships and US Youth Soccer Regionals. Grand Park will also host the best men’s collegiate soccer players in the nation, serving as a first-ever neutral site for the Big Ten Men’s Soccer Tournaments for the 2016 and 2017 seasons.
William Knox, director of the Hamilton County Tourism Office’s Sports Authority, credits the Authority’s sports development grants for bringing new and repeating sports events to Hamilton County. “Our grant program, which has been in place for about 10 years, has awarded an average of $70,000 a year to non-profit events rights holders and governing bodies who in turn generate positive economic impact in Hamilton County.”
St. Cloud, Minnesota
Located just an hour north of the twin cities of Minneapolis-St. Paul, St. Cloud, Minnesota is more than just ice hockey. Outdoor sports in all four seasons makes St. Cloud a sought-after destination for a variety of activities.
“We work closely with local colleges and universities in partnerships that make available excellent facilities for larger events,” said Dana Randt, sports & special events manager at St. Cloud Area Convention & Visitors Bureau. “St. Cloud State University offers Halenbeck Hall, Husky Stadium and the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center. St. John’s University’s 7,500-seat Clemens Stadium can be used for football, soccer and track and field events, and the College of St. Benedict provides spaces for soccer, volleyball and softball events.”
BMX is big in the St. Cloud area. Pineview Park BMX helped transform a vandalized city park into one of the top BMX facilities in the country, and is home track to 2016 Olympic Cycling silver medalist Alise Post, a St. Cloud native. Pineview Park annually hosts the Alise Post MS Race for a Cure and USA BMX-sanctioned races.
In 2016, the fifth installment of the Kill Cliffs Granite Games took place in September with approximately 1,500 athletes from around the globe competing in the three-day world class fitness competition across multiple facilities at St. Cloud State University.
Located in central Illinois at the intersection of major Interstates 57 and 70, the City of Effingham is establishing itself as a well-rounded destination for sports events.
Spurring this effort along is the fall 2016 opening of The Richard E. Workman Sports and Wellness Center, a sports complex comprising a 15,500-square-foot maple court surface that can be configured for regulation basketball or AAU volleyball courts, plus a 25-meter, eight-lane competitive lap pool, a zero-entry recreational pool with a “lazy river” float attraction, an elevated indoor running track, a 7,000-square-foot indoor fitness facility and four outdoor tennis courts.
“Sports is really new to Effingham, and the addition of the Workman Center will expand our city’s capability to host a number of sports events,” said Jodi Thoele, director of tourism for City of Effingham Convention & Visitors Bureau. “We can now offer facilities to host basketball and volleyball tournaments and swim meets all under one roof.”
The Workman Center recently hosted the Junior NBA Youth Basketball League with over 200 participating athletes and the University of Illinois alumni “Illini Legends Charity Game” basketball exhibition.
Other venues in the Effingham area include Evergreen Hollow Park, which includes two lighted softball fields, a lighted baseball field and four lighted tennis courts, plus soccer and cross country facilities. Community Park also offers lighted baseball and softball facilities, plus disc golf, sand volleyball and tennis and basketball facilities.
Columbia, Missouri, has both public and private venues ready to host a wide range of sports events, accessible from major interstates with access to thousands of hotel rooms and attractions. Columbia is centrally located in the heart of mid-Missouri with Interstate 70 providing an easy route to both Kansas City and St. Louis.
“Our Parks and Recreation Department is a great partner,” said Megan McConachie, marketing and communications manager for Columbia Convention & Visitors Bureau. “With more than 70 city parks, we host numerous youth through adult amateur soccer and baseball events throughout the year.”
Columbia is home to the Olympic-style Show-Me State Games, held on the campus of the University of Missouri annually over three summer weekends and comprising more than three dozen sports events for thousands of athletes ranging from youth through senior.
New to Columbia is Harmony Bends Championship Disc Golf Course at Strawn Park, designed by renowned disc golf course designer John Houck and featuring big hills, wide meandering creeks and tall trees – everything needed to accommodate a world-class destination event.
Columbia has hosted numerous events including Special Olympics Summer Games, Missouri Grand Prix Swimming Championships, Little League Baseball Senior League Regional Tournament, the Go Girl Run Half Marathon & 5K, the USSSA All Star State Softball Tournament, USSSA Baseball 14 & Under AA State Championships, the PGA Missouri Open, NAIA Volleyball National Championship, USTA youth tennis tournaments and Hockman’s ATA Martial Arts Tournament.
Known as the “Headquarters of southwest Minnesota,” the Marshall area prides itself in offering the best facilities in the state for tournaments for ice hockey and volleyball. “Tournaments hosted here are successful because of our top-notch facilities that are extremely well-run,” said Darin Rahm, director of the Marshall Convention & Visitors Bureau.
Lockwood Rink in Red Baron Arena & Expo Center is a new, year-round hockey facility that during its first summer of operation hosted a hockey camp, a 3-on-3 camp and boys' high school hockey league. It will be home to the Marshall Tiger high school and youth teams. Reinhart Rink supplements the inventory with six months of on-demand ice.
Volleyball is one of the best-attended sports in the Southwest region. Teams from all over the Midwest come to Marshall for not only the great venue but the level of competition. Marshall also hosts the “Pursuit of Excellence” marching band competition, an event comprising over 20 high school marching bands from four states to perform on Mattke Field at Southwest Minnesota State University. The event is one of the largest marching band competitions in the state, with excellent attendance.