Bending Over Backwards | Sports Destination Management

Bending Over Backwards

Aug 30, 2022 | By: Judy Leand

Talk about flipping the script: During the COVID-19 hiatus, most gymnastics events came to a halt. Now, the sport is gradually regaining momentum and is benefitting from a participation boom that was fueled by the Olympics.

There are nearly 5 million gymnasts in the U.S., and the sport is most popular among kids and preteens between the ages of 9 and 12, according to USA Gymnastics. This translates into plenty of opportunity for destinations to welcome a wide variety of gymnastics events for all ages and ability levels. Here’s a look at eight locales that know how to stick the landing.

Foley, Alabama

Foley, AL  |  Photo courtesy of Courtland William Richards for Foley Sports Tourism

Foley Sports Tourism is home to the 90,000-square-foot Foley Event Center that can accommodate a range of gymnastics meet set-ups. The facility provides locker rooms, restrooms, a trainer’s room, concession stands, hospitality areas and elevated bleachers. The technology is also excellent and includes high-speed Wi-Fi, robust direct connection internet, a digital sound system, electrical outlets placed throughout the space and large screens with projectors that make it easy to share real-time scoring updates with spectators.

In May 2022, Foley Sports Tourism became the first destination in Alabama to host the USA Gymnastics Region 8 Xcel Championships that drew 1,710 participants and 6,669 spectators, resulting in an economic impact of $1,409,673. Foley also hosted the Alabama State Championships in March 2022, which attracted 936 participants, 3,650 spectators and had an economic impact of $478,646. Additionally, the Bounders Beach Bash, held annually in September in Foley by the Bama Bounders Gym, was the first USA Gymnastics meet to be held post-pandemic. The event typically draws 500 to 800 participants and 1,500 to 2,000 spectators, and is expected to grow.

“Foley Sports Tourism hosts gymnastics meets throughout the year. The number depends on what kinds of bids were awarded that year,” explains Shellie Kichler, sales and marketing director for Foley Sports Tourism. “FST has hosted anywhere from two per year up to five per year. Foley is always looking to create new partnerships with planners not only in gymnastics, but also in all sports. The Foley Event Center is a perfect destination for gymnastics and the FST team is ready to not only help planners run a successful meet, but to help them grow that event in years to come.”

Placer Valley, California

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Placer Valley, CA  |  Photo courtesy of of Clair Hawkins

The $34 million Roebbelen Center is at the heart of this destination’s gymnastics competition scene. It measures 160,000 square feet overall and includes more than 108,000 square feet of unobstructed floor space.

Key attributes include a hardwood floor surface for competition that can be covered with gymnastics mats as required, a trainer’s room and a tournament organizer’s office, flexible meeting space, concessions, adjustable lighting up to 84 footcandles, large TV monitors throughout the atrium and lobby, LCD wall projection, configurable 14-row telescopic bleachers, tip and roll bleachers, two complimentary Wi-Fi networks, a PA system, and more.

“We are interested in events that will generate hotel stays for the 25 hotels located in Placer Valley,” says Donna D. Dotti, director of sales, Placer Valley Tourism. “Event participation varies depending upon the event. The majority of participants are regional which is inclusive of some local. With California being so wide-ranging, Placer Valley hotels benefit greatly from events designated as ‘Regional’ and ‘Western.’”

Each year, Placer Valley holds the Rose Gold Classic hosted by the Byers Gymnastics Club. In March 2021, the destination held the Level 2-10 Xcel SoCal State Gymnastics performance event, hosted by American Gymnastics Academy/Poway Gymnastics. Coming in April 2023 will be the Level 6/7 USA Gymnastics Western Regional Championship.

Orlando, Florida

Orlando, FL  |  Photo courtesy of of Orange County Convention Center

The Orange County Convention Center (OCCC) is one of the largest indoor venues in the Sunshine State.

“The OCCC welcomes all genders, ages and ability levels,” says Eric Blanc, OCCC’s senior director of sales. “Traditionally, the majority of the sporting events held at the OCCC are organized by youth athletic organizations, with participants between the ages of 5 and 18.”

The OCCC offers spacious exhibit halls across its West and North-South Buildings, each one ranging from 49,000 to 108,000 square feet. In addition to the variety of large-scale hall spaces, the OCCC has an exclusive partnership with Centerplate for its food and beverage offerings. The Center is also home to a highly skilled security team, trained to respond to medical emergencies, in conjunction with local law enforcement and first responders.

In June 2022, the Center was pleased to welcome its very first gymnastics event, the National Gymnastics Association (NGA) GymFest, which attracted approximately 500 participants and 500 spectators. The economic impact garnered from this event was approximately $1,283,500.

Blanc adds, “The OCCC has a strong partnership with the Greater Orlando Sports Commission, an organization that constantly seeks out opportunities for more sporting events to make Orlando their home. These efforts include events affiliated with gymnastics. As the Center continues to do Business Better than Usual, it embraces the opportunity to expand its business and host more gymnastics events.”

Springfield, Illinois

Springfield, IL  |  Photo courtesy of of Visit Springfield

Regional and national youth gymnastics competitions generate plenty of enthusiasm in this centrally located city, and meets are held at the Bank of Springfield (BOS) Center, located in the heart of Springfield’s historic district. The facility’s main hall provides 40,000 square feet of column-free space, with an additional 25,000 square feet of space for awards, meetings and vendors. Other amenities include 4,300 permanent seats, four locker rooms, two concessions areas, full catering service, free Wi-Fi in public areas and AV service. Two trauma-level hospitals are within five minutes of the venue.

Previous gymnastics events held at the BOS Center include USA Gymnastics-GFA (Gymnastics For All) National Championship (600 competitors and 1,200 spectators); AAU National Age Group Championships (1,700 competitors and 3,000 spectators); and USTA Tumbling and Trampoline National Championships (1,800 competitors and 3,000 spectators).

“Two to three gymnastics events per year are typically held here, and we look forward to hosting future national and regional USA and AAU events,” says Terry Truman, sales manager, Visit Springfield. “We have a long history of hosting national gymnastics events dating back to 2010. Our bureau works closely with organizers to provide everything from volunteers to financial help for the event. Our family-friendly location features Abraham Lincoln and Route 66 historical sites as well as great activities such as Knights Action Park (water and amusement park) and SCHEELS sports mall. Participants are sure to have a memorable time when not in competition.”

Flint, Michigan

Flint, MI  |  Photo courtesy of Jen Young, co-owner, Epic Gymnastics

This destination’s first gymnastics event, the 2021 USA Gymnastic Michigan Men’s Championship, was held at the Dort Financial Center, and the goal is to add other gymnastics competitions in the future. Even though attendance was limited due to the State of Michigan’s health restrictions at the time, nearly 1,000 athletes and spectators attended the event.

And according to Flint, more gymnastics would be a welcome addition.

“We are always working to bring additional events to our community,” says Jeremy Torrey, general manager of the Dort Financial Center. “2021 was the first meet we have hosted, and from the experience we believe our facility and community are a great fit for more great events.”

The Dort Financial Center, with its two large arenas, is an ideal venue to host gymnastics. The main arena has 17,000 square feet of floor space and offers seating for 3,939 spectators. It also provides four fixed concession stands with additional mobile stands available. The second arena has fixed seating for 630 spectators, plus pullout bleachers that will accommodate another 700 guests. Floor seating is also available. With the bleachers pushed in, the floor is approximately 27,000 square feet, and measures about 25,000 square feet with the bleachers pulled out. Both arenas have concrete floors.

Wildwood, New Jersey

Wildwoods, NJ  |  Photo courtesy of the Greater Wildwoods Tourism Authority

Located in Wildwood, directly on the beach and Boardwalk overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, the Wildwoods Convention Center offers a multitude of amenities—including dining, entertainment and amusement piers — for visitors of all ages to enjoy. The Oceanfront Arena inside the convention center has 75,000 square feet of unobstructed space with 30’ high ceilings and floor-to-ceiling glass walls overlooking the beach and Atlantic Ocean. Bleacher seating for 3,000, plus two large concession stands are also on offer, and eight loading docks with direct access to the arena floor make load-in/load-out a breeze.

The venue so far hosts one gymnastics event annually, the United States Association of Independent Gymnastics Regional Championship, held each May over Memorial Day weekend, and drawing more than 3,000 youth participants and fans.

“We are actively pursuing additional [gymnastics] competitions,” notes Ben Rose, director of marketing and public relations, Greater Wildwoods Tourism Authority. “Since 2004 the United States Association of Independent Gymnastics Clubs has hosted up to two gymnastic events in the Wildwoods Convention Center: the Northeast Regional Gymnastics Championships and NJ State Gymnastics Championships, both hosted in May.”

These two events attracted more than 2,000 athletes and close to 8,000 spectators, generating more than $8.8 million in economic impact.

Rose points out that Wildwoods is looking to attract youth, high school and college gymnastics events, and is currently working on hosting an international event with a current promoter.

Greensboro, North Carolina

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Greensboro, NC  |  Photo courtesy of the Greensboro Area Convention and Visitors Bureau

Enthusiasm for gymnastics abounds here, and six to eight events are typically held per calendar year. “We are actively bidding for more national and international events,” says Amy Scott, director of marketing, Greensboro Area CVB. “We want to attract all levels of amateurs and professionals, and we are also focused on retaining and growing our local events.”

Previous gymnastics competitions held in Greensboro have included USA Gymnastics Championships, USA Gymnastics Regionals, Greensboro Gymnastics Invitational, Think Pink Invitational, Nastia Liukin Cup and American Cup. The USA Gymnastics Championships attracted more that 1,800 athletes, more than 5,000 spectators, and had an economic impact of $2.4 million.

The main venues for gymnastics are the Special Events Center and The Fieldhouse, both part of the multi-building Greensboro Coliseum Complex. The 167,000-square-foot Special Events Center is the busiest of the Coliseum Complex’s venues, and it boasts three exhibition halls, a 5,000-seat mini-arena and eight meeting rooms. The Fieldhouse features a 30,000-square-foot, column-free area along with 8,500 square feet of support space that includes locker rooms, dressing rooms and its own box office.

Rocky Mount, North Carolina

north carolina
Rocky Mount, NC  |  Photo courtesy of Gerry Brabham

The hub for gymnastics action is the Rocky Mount Event Center, a 165,000-square-foot multi-use venue located in Downtown Rocky Mount, within walking distance of restaurants, shops and entertainment. The facility has a 75,000-square-foot field house that is ideal for meets, and the floor layout can be converted into a 50-foot x 94-foot master event space and/or three full gymnastics or cheer floors with stadium seating for 4,000 spectators. There are also four locker rooms plus a mezzanine on the second floor for observing the competition.

Previous events held at Rocky Mount Event Center include the 2019 NC AUU State Championship that drew 865 participants from 29 gymnastics clubs and more than 2,200 spectators. In January 2020, the venue held the Rocky Mount Rumble Gymnastics Challenge that was hosted by Myrtle Beach-based Thomas Gymnastics Meet Supply.

“Since opening in October 2018, we have held about one gymnastic event per year, and are most definitely open to hosting more,” says Ashley Pittman, marketing manager, Rocky Mount Event Center. “To obtain welcoming packages, great deals, or for any type of assistance, event planners can contact our outstanding Travel and Tourism, Explore Nash County at 252-972-5080 or”  SDM

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