An Armchair Tour of America's College Towns | Sports Destination Management

An Armchair Tour of America's College Towns

May 12, 2022 | By: Mary Helen Sprecher

There’s just something about a college town. Surrounded by great buildings and bustling with a student population, it’s an American institution, bringing back fond memories of tailgates with classmates in the crisp fall air.

College towns are also excellent event hosts for sports events, with top-flight venues and dedicated staffs that keep them in excellent shape. They also offer easy-to-navigate campuses and great connectivity, as well as plenty of parking and amenities that can elevate an experience from the ordinary to the exceptional.

  In the next few pages, we present some virtual campus visits so that you can acquaint yourself with the excellent potential hosts from coast to coast.

Arkansas: Conway

Arkansas: Conway PhotoS courtesy of Photo courtesy of Conway CVB

More than 125 years ago, business leaders in Conway, Arkansas wanted to grow the local economy, so they created a strategy to attract institutions of higher learning to the central Arkansas town. Now, Conway is home to the University of Central Arkansas, Hendrix College and Central Baptist College, earning the nickname the “City of Colleges — as well as countless dividends from that century-old decision.

Today, Conway’s population of about 65,000 is young (with a median age of 27.3) and educated (nearly 40 percent of residents have at least a bachelor’s degree). And for many of the city’s residents, the role of sports and sports facilities continues to be important because, at its heart, Conway is a sports town.

Not only do all three colleges have their own athletic facilities, but the city and its residents realize the need for top-notch sports amenities for all ages, and those facilities continue to attract organizers who are looking to find a welcoming home for their tournaments and events.

Conway also has dozens of hotels to suit all budgets, and most were built within the last eight years. Restaurants abound, with more than 200 in the area, offering all types of cuisine at all price points.

Florida: Tallahassee

Florida: Tallahassee
Florida: Tallahassee

Tallahassee is where champions are made.

Just like sports themselves, hosting a successful sporting event takes practice — and Tallahassee, Florida has years of it at the youth, amateur, collegiate and professional levels.

The crown jewel of the Capital City is Apalachee Regional Park, which recently hosted the NCAA Division I Cross Country National Championships. As one of the nation’s only facilities dedicated specifically to cross-country events, the pristine, multi-surface course is ideal for athletes striving for personal bests.

Three distinguished universities and colleges in Tallahassee offer top-tier stadiums, training fields and arenas as options for hosting events. Facilities needed for world-class swimming, diving, basketball, cheerleading and soccer events are present at Morcom Aquatics Center, FAMU’s Alfred J. Lawson Multipurpose Center, the Donald L. Tucker Civic Center and Seminole Soccer Complex.

Yet it’s more than the facilities that make hosting an event in Tallahassee so attractive. From assembling a bid team and assisting with site selection to securing hotel reservations and supervising event preparation, the Visit Tallahassee Sports team works directly with organizers to ensure events provide athletes and spectators with an unforgettable experience.

To make your next event the best you’ve ever held, let the professionals at Visit Tallahassee Sports guide you through all that Florida’s Capital City has to offer.

Missouri: Saint Charles

Missouri: Saint Charles Photo courtesy of Tom Wagganer 

Lindenwood University, located in Saint Charles, Missouri is a historic gem, founded in 1827. Saint Charles, founded in 1769, is rooted in American history. In 2018, Money Magazine listed Saint Charles as the 18th best city to live in the United States.

Lindenwood boasts one of the largest, most successful athletic programs in the country, claiming numerous NCAA championships and churning out world-class athletes, including 2018 Olympic Gold Medalist Nicole Hensley from USA Women’s Hockey and Pierre Desir of the Indianapolis Colts.

In 2018, the organizations partnered and submitted the winning bid for the 2018 Missouri Cheerleading Coaches Association State Championship. The event generated 400+ room nights, producing a $250,000 economic impact.”

“Lindenwood is a tremendous community partner,” said Chris Wilson, Saint Charles CVB sports sales manager.

Joe Ward, Saint Charles CVB director agreed, “Lindenwood athletics simply gets it; administrators, coaches and student-athletes contribute daily to our city’s success.”

Brad Wachler, Lindenwood’s Vice President of Athletics added, “We look forward to building upon our current partnership with the St. Charles Conventions and Visitor’s Bureau in an effort to secure first-rate events that add great value to the St. Charles community, the region and our university.”

Ohio: Bowling Green

Ohio: Bowling Green
Missouri: Saint Charles Photo courtesy of Tom Wagganer 

Bowling Green, Ohio and Bowling Green State University invite owners to host their next sporting event in town. From the state-of-the-art facilities like the Stroh Center to the Doyt Perry Stadium and Perry Fieldhouse, Slater Family Ice Arena and Recreation Center, all venue needs can be covered.

Additionally, the area has an extensive amount of green space for many outdoor sports, from soccer to rugby and can fit many needs. The BG Curling Center is an excellent addition to the curling opportunities in Northwest Ohio, perfect for hosting bonspiels.

Carter Park Baseball Fields can host an adult or youth baseball tournament. The BG Community Center has multiple basketball courts as well with an indoor walking track and workout facilities. There are 500 hotel rooms and several new resident halls to accommodate teams, staff, fans and families.

Visitors who want to get more information can go to or call 1-800-866-0046.

Oregon: Eugene

Oregon: Eugene
Oregon: Eugene

Eugene, known as TrackTown around the globe, is the proud home of the University of Oregon Ducks. The Oregon track and field program put Eugene on the map in 1972 when it hosted the NCAA Championships for track and field and hosted the U.S. Olympic Trials for the first time.

Fifty years and seven U.S. Olympic Trials later, Eugene will host a lineup of prestigious track and field events at the reimagined Hayward Field at the University of Oregon that will culminate in welcoming the world for the World Athletics Championships Oregon22. The event will be held on U.S. soil for the first time and will bring 2,000 athletes from over 200 countries and territories, 3,000 media and tens of thousands of spectators over the 10-day event which will be broadcast to billions around the world.

Beyond being the heart and home of track and field and the birthplace of Nike, the University of Oregon’s 57,000-seat Autzen Stadium is the loudest per capita college football stadium in the country. Other sports facilities on campus include Matthew Knight Arena, PK Park, Jane Sanders Stadium, Papé Field and the Moshofsky Center. The venues support state, regional and international events for athletes of all ages.

Eugene prides itself on being a champion host and a community of sports fans. Unique hotels, a walkable downtown, no sales tax, a vibrant culinary scene and unrivaled Pacific Northwest beauty all add to this college town’s allure. For sports events big and small—Eugene has it all.

Tennessee: Johnson City

Tennessee: Johnson City
Tennessee: Johnson City

Nestled in the Northeast corner of Tennessee, Johnson City is where you will find big-city amenities, small-town southern charm and world-class outdoor recreation. The historic downtown district is home to local restaurants, breweries, retail shops, parks, public art and 360-degree mountain views. Here, at the hub of the region, you can easily access everything that is offered.

East Tennessee State University is the academic and cultural anchor for the region, providing the necessary facilities to support large-scale sporting events and tournaments. The Ballad Health Athletic Center (Mini Dome) features an 80,000 square foot, uninterrupted arena floor, 10,000 permanent seats – and all the connectivity, breakout rooms and locker rooms to host even the largest events. Adjacent facilities include the Basler Center for Physical Activity, Brooks Gym, Thomas Stadium, the Dave Mullins Tennis Complex and more, providing the perfect space for any size competition.

If you are a lover of the outdoors, food, culture and people, Johnson City must be on your list of sports destinations. The community is ready to welcome visitors with southern hospitality, and it invites owners to bring their next sporting event to the Appalachian Mountains. Learn more at or by calling 423-461-8012.  SDM

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