West by Southwest | Sports Destination Management

West by Southwest

Sep 01, 2020 | By: Cindy Cantrell

Photo courtesy of Tulsa Regional Tourism
Spanning the Southwest and Pacific regions, the states of Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Arizona and Wyoming share majestic natural beauty, rich cultural history and lots of options for accommodations, dining, entertainment and nonstop attractions. 

While the stunning scenery and ideal weather may keep outdoor adventures at top of mind for event planners, a closer look at the world-class venues, top-notch service and friendly hospitality will reveal some of the ways in which you’ll be treated as though your sport has no competition.

Laredo, Texas

When it comes to sports, the City of Laredo in South Texas offers a mix of traditional and inaugural competitions providing excitement like no other.

In its 88th year, the Border Olympics feature events for student athletes such as tennis, track and field, golf, baseball, softball, soccer, basketball and cross country.

By February 2021, the United Independent School District is expected to open a 49,000-square-foot aquatic center featuring an eight-lane, 50-meter competition pool and a four-lane, 18–meter adaptive pool. A new sports complex, with an anticipated completion in 18 to 24 months, will include basketball courts and baseball, softball and soccer fields.

Also in early 2021, Laredo will team with USA Boxing and the South Texas Amateur Boxing Association to host 500 boxers for the city’s first Texas State Championships.

“Laredo offers a fascinating mix of culture, history, shopping bargains, fine accommodations and entertainment — all in a relaxed, festive atmosphere,” says Joel Vazquez, assistant director of the Laredo Convention & Visitors Bureau.

Arlington, Texas

Arlington, Texas knows a thing or two about sports.

Due to the size of its venues, the city is a popular host site for “mega” sporting events such as the Super Bowl, Final Four and WrestleMania. 

 In addition, there are three world-class facilities adjacent to one another: AT&T Stadium, home of the Dallas Cowboys; brand new Globe Life Field, where the Texas Rangers play; and Globe Life Park, a football and soccer facility and the 2021 home of the Dallas Jackals of Major League Rugby.

The Esports Stadium Arlington + EXPO Center is the largest dedicated esports facility in North America. Cheer/dance, gymnastics and fencing events are also represented.

 “We already do baseball, basketball and football exceptionally well,” says Matt Wilson, vice president of sports and events for the Arlington Convention & Visitors Bureau, “so we were well positioned to become a leader in nontraditional sports.”

El Paso, Texas

Located at the western tip of Texas, where the Lone Star State meets Mexico and New Mexico, El Paso is the largest international metroplex in the world.

Its sports culture is backed by a $500 million Quality of Life Bond, which is fueling unprecedented growth. New additions include the award-winning Southwest University Park, a Triple-A baseball stadium and 92-acre regional sports complex offering scenic views of the Franklin Mountains and downtown skyline.

In addition, the city recently opened the first of two natatoriums. The 36,000-square-foot Westside Natatorium features a 50-meter, Olympic-size competition pool and adjustable bulkhead.

Brooke Underwood, assistant general manager of Destination El Paso, says the nickname Sun City is well earned with more than 300 days of bright, sunny weather each year.

“That’s more than 300 perfect days to bike, climb, swim, run, throw, kick and anything else that can be done under the sun,” she says. “Come experience El Paso, a city reborn.”

Perry, Oklahoma

Open since 2015, the Perry BMAC Baseball Complex is a modern, four-field facility featuring top-flight amenities ideal for hosting small- to medium-sized tournaments.

Named in memory of 16-year-old Brendon “BMAC” McLarty, an avid baseball player who passed away following a severe asthma attack in 2012, the BMAC is an investment in the city’s youth.

Ballpark manager Lee Harmon oversees the lushly manicured Bermuda grass fields that are dragged, raked, watered and re-chalked between games. Advantages include its convenient location just off Interstate 35 and plentiful accommodations, with three nationally branded motels within a half mile of the facility.

“Since Perry isn’t as highly populated as Tulsa and Oklahoma City, we’ve got to work harder to stand apart,” Harmon says. “Because of who the facility is named after, and the fact his dad still helps out here, we all want it to succeed. For that reason, we take pride in putting in the extra effort that a lot of other places overlook.”

Albuquerque, New Mexico

Albuquerque, New Mexico is a welcoming sports destination with state-of-the-art venues, a mild climate, abundant sunshine and authentic culture – all with the magnificent backdrop of the Sandia Mountains.

The Albuquerque Regional Sports Complex features five collegiate-level baseball fields with synthetic turf and field lighting that can be modified to accommodate baseball and softball. The 600,000-square-foot Albuquerque Convention Center is conveniently located downtown and minutes from Albuquerque International Sunport.

Additional facilities include Balloon Fiesta Park, Albuquerque Soccer Complex, University of New Mexico Sports Complex, the largest covered BMX facility in the country and tennis and pickleball venues. Past events have included USA Track & Field Indoor Championships, U.S. Olympic Governing Body events, the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta and multiple NCAA regional and national championships.

“With world-class sporting venues, over 17,000 hotel rooms and award-winning service and hospitality, Albuquerque will exceed your expectations from start to finish,” says Angie Jepsen, senior sports sales manager for the Albuquerque Sports Commission, a division of Visit Albuquerque.

Tulsa, Oklahoma

Tulsa’s world of sports competes with the best.

The BOK Center, voted the top arena in the world by the International Entertainment Buyers Association in 2018, has hosted the Bassmaster Classic, Big 12 Wrestling, NCAA Division I Men’s and Women’s Tennis Championships and USA Gymnastics events.

The Mohawk Sports Complex, featuring 17 international-size fields and 10 lighted fields, is located in close proximity to downtown and numerous hotels. The award-winning, newly renovated Cox Business Convention Center is ideal for indoor sports and conventions.

Tulsa hosts a range of sporting events, including IRONMAN triathlons, professional BMX, major league fishing, college wrestling and martial arts. Parks, museums, attractions, shopping, urban wilderness areas and festivals provide a well-rounded menu of experiences for both residents and visitors.

“Tulsa Regional Tourism has a proven track record for hosting successful sporting events,” says Joel Koester, director of sports sales for Tulsa Regional Tourism. “Tulsa combines premier event facilities with outstanding hospitality and a unique local scene for an unforgettable experience.”

Surprise, Arizona

Surprise, Arizona is known for world-class competition and training facilities surrounded by gorgeous mountain views and a wide variety of amenities as part of the Phoenix Metro region, including Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. Plus, there are more than 300 days of sunshine each year!

 Surprise is the spring training home of the Kansas City Royals and Texas Rangers, offering 15 Major League Baseball fields, 25 USTA championship tennis courts, 16 pickleball courts, an indoor sports facility and a new turf stadium for football, lacrosse and soccer.

The sports facilities span more than 250 acres and host high-profile events in partnership with organizations including Oregon State Baseball, NCAA, Perfect Game Baseball, USA Baseball, United States Tennis Association (USTA) and Wilson Premier Baseball.

“Our first-class facilities and community continue to elevate our city as a sports tourism destination,” says Kendra Pettis, the city’s sports and tourism director.

Casper, Wyoming

Iconic landscapes, abundant outdoor recreation, a vibrant downtown, welcoming locals and plentiful venues make Casper, Wyoming a popular choice among sports event planners.

Built on a hill overlooking Casper Mountain and the scenic Platte River Valley, the 28,000-square-foot Casper Events Center offers the largest arena in the state, flexible seating arrangements and first-in-class technology for events including the College National Finals Rodeo and Wild West Championships. The Casper Mountain Outdoor Center at McMurry Mountain Park has hosted Olympic teams, adaptive recreation programs, cross country skiing, running and mountain biking events.

Brook Kaufman, CEO of Visit Casper, says the region’s central location and big-city amenities are other advantages.

“Casper is well positioned as a year-round sports destination, with diverse venues, abundant lodging options and incredible outdoor adventures in the heart of Wyoming,” she says. “Plus, our community’s western hospitality and thriving culinary scene help make Casper a welcoming place for events year after year.” SDM