The National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) announced its third-annual host excellence award honorees last week. The awards honor those that have gone above and beyond in the execution of a championship event for the 2018-19 school year. Their work, along with other local organizations help in executing a memorable championship experience for hundreds of student-athletes at each event.
“The NAIA is fortunate to partner with exceptional organizations and institutions every year to elevate the championship experience for our student-athletes,” said NAIA President and CEO Jim Carr. “We appreciate the dedication and hard work of all our hosts and are proud to honor those that went above and beyond in the 2018-19 season.”
Best NAIA Championship Host – Sioux City, Iowa (Women’s Division II Basketball National Championship)
The best NAIA Host is awarded to the championship host who displays excellence in all aspects of conducting a national championship and produces an excellent student-athlete experience.
“This award would not be possible without the help of our local organizing committee, volunteers, Tyson Center staff and our sponsors,” said Mike Skaggs, NAIA Championship Co-Tournament Director. “Our focus is to always make this event as special as possible for the players, coaches, and fans.”
The 2019 NAIA Division II Women’s Basketball National Championship was the 22nd consecutive year the event was held in Sioux City, Iowa and the community is no stranger to championship events. The Tyson Event Center is also home to the NAIA Women’s Volleyball National Championship. Additionally, it was announced earlier this year that Sioux City will continue on as host of the NAIA Women’s Basketball National Championship after both division merge to one after the conclusion of the 2020 season.
“We’ve been fortunate to be the Division II host,” said Corey Westra, NAIA Championship Co-Tournament Director. “We look forward to being the host of the NAIA Women’s Basketball Championship moving forward under one division.”
NAIA Championship Legacy Award – Bruce Parker, former Athletics Director, Rocky Mountain College
The NAIA Championship Legacy Award is given to a person who has advanced NAIA National Championships and has helped elevate the NAIA brand.
Bruce Parker was instrumental in bringing the NAIA Division I Women’s Basketball National Championship to Billings, Montana. After the NAIA left Independence, Mo., as its host site for the event, Parker brought the championship to Billings, where it has thrived since its arrival.
“I am both humbled and honored to receive the prestigious NAIA Legacy Award,” said Parker of the honor. “Hosting the NAIA Division I Women’s Basketball Championship has been a great experience for Rocky Mountain College, the city of Billings, Frontier Conference and state of Montana. It was a huge undertaking by all involved and I would have to say it has been a huge success. A tournament such as this is not a one man show, and kudos should also go out to Alex Tyson of Visit Billings, our tournament chair Dick Zeir, Jeff Malby and staff at Rocky Mountain College. Thanks for this recognition and for allowing us to host such a wonderful event.”
Best NAIA Championship Venue – Mobile Tennis Center (NAIA Men’s & Women’s Tennis Championships)
The best NAIA Championship Venue Award is awarded to a championship host that provides an outstanding venue to house the championship event and is continually making improvements to better facilitate the event and provide our student-athletes with a greater experience overall.
The Mobile Tennis Center underwent several renovations last year geared specifically toward the NAIA Tennis Championship. These improvements included updates to benches and awnings for spectators and resurfacing of all of the courts for the high level of play that the championship brings with it.
“It is an honor for the Mobile Tennis Center to be chosen as the best NAIA Championship Venue for 2018-19,” said Scott Novak, General Manager of the Mobile Tennis Center. “This award can really be shared by the entire City of Mobile as various departments have helped with recent improvements. The NAIA Tennis Championships have become an integral part of the Mobile Tennis Center and we are extremely proud of the relationship over the past 15 years.
Best New Championship Host – Dakota State University (NAIA Indoor Track & Field)
The best NAIA New Host Award is given to the host that displays excellence in all aspects of conducting a national championship, produces an excellent student-athlete experience and is in their first year of hosting a championship event.
The 2019 NAIA Indoor Track and Field Championship, hosted by Dakota State and the Sanford Jackrabbit Athletic Complex in Brookings, S.D., is a top-notch facility that is perfectly suited for the NAIA, complete with Daktronics video boards for live results.
Additionally, Dakota State put on a memorable student-athlete experience event, which was a western-themed banquet. The event served over 1,100 student-athletes in just 20 minutes and featured an area where the participants could try their hand at roping a stationary target. Not only did the mayor of Brookings greet the guests upon arrival, but the governor of South Dakota recorded a video welcome that was played at the event.
“We were very excited when we were named a host site for the NAIA Indoor Track and Field National Championships, and worked very hard to try to put on an event that would be an outstanding experience for the 1,100 athletes and coaches that qualified to compete in the meet,” said Jeff Dittman, Director of Athletics at Dakota State. “I can’t begin to thank all the people who put in long hours to make this meet successful, but without the help of Hannah Harmon and her team at the NAIA, we would not have been able to have such a successful meet.”
Best Championship Hotel – Delta Hotel at Sloan Park in Mesa, Ariz. (NAIA Men’s Golf)
The best NAIA Championship Hotel Award is awarded to a place that has the best accommodations for our student-athletes.
The Delta Hotel at Sloan Park, a Marriott property, features brand new guestrooms, lobby and common areas with two dining/bar areas.
The property was able to host every team and championship staff under one roof. Additionally, the hotel took great pride in creating special breakfast accommodations for the teams with meals as early as 5:00 a.m., prior to the golfers hitting the course.
“The Delta Hotel Phoenix Mesa always provides exceptional guest service and we are thrilled that they have been recognized as the recipient of the NAIA Host Excellence Award for the best Championship Host Hotel,” said Suzanne Keller, Director of Sports Sales at Visit Mesa. “We all were excited to show off the newly renovated property and Visit Mesa is continually proud to partner with the entire team at the Delta on these exceptional events.”
Best Student-Athlete Experience Event – Evening at “Vast,” Oklahoma City University (Women’s Golf)
The best NAIA Student-Athlete Experience Event, the hallmark of the NAIA National Championship weeks, is expected to create a memorable experience for the student-athletes as well as be a showcase for the host city.
The 2019 event was held at “Vast,” which is the tallest building in Oklahoma City. Situated in the heart of downtown, the event was held on the 50th floor, with breathtaking 360-degree views of the downtown skyline.
“As a host there are variables that you can control and others that you can’t,” said Jim Abbott, Oklahoma City University Director of Athletics. “It was a priority for us to do everything possible to provide a great experience for students that participated in the Women’s Golf Championship. It’s rewarding to know that we delivered!”
Best Champions of Character Event – Special Olympics Clinic, Sioux City, Iowa (Women’s Volleyball)
The best Champions of Character®Event not only promotes the five core values of Integrity, Respect, Responsibility, Sportsmanship and Servant Leadership, but engages the student-athletes in a program that promotes or provides them an opportunity to serve the community in which the championship is hosted.
Prior to the beginning of competition, student-athletes from all participating institutions host a clinic for special needs children from around the Sioux City regional area. The event sprawls from the Tyson Event Center competition courts over to the Long Lines Arena practice courts as the student-athletes have a chance to bring some joy to the kids involved.
"To me as much as I look forward to hosting the matches and crowning a champion, the Special Olympics Clinic is the absolute highlight of the week,” said Corey Westera, NAIA Women’s Volleyball National Championship Co-Director, “The event has great energy and springboards the week of the Championship and highlights what the NAIA is all about, Character Driven Athletics."