Regardless of whether it’s for recreation, competition or helping performance in another sport, gymnastics is a welcoming sport whose grassroots participation continues to grow. In fact, athlete membership in USA Gymnastics trends upward, year-over-year.
“Many of our club members have reported increases in their recreational gymnastics student numbers,” said USA Gymnastics’ Leslie King. “Parents and their children have confidence and trust in their local clubs, and in the professionalism of the coaches and instructors who wake up every day with the goal of helping their students and gymnasts grow as athletes and people.”
USA Gymnastics has continued to add athlete programs. One of the most recent is the Xcel program, which increases accessibility to the sport and is a more recreationally competitive experience. Trampoline and tumbling also recently established the Trampoline Developmental Center program, which identifies several member clubs each year and educates those clubs about establishing a trampoline program.
When it comes to choosing a site for competitions, USA Gymnastics considers many factors.
“For the national events, the factors USA Gymnastics considers include location; a facility’s or the facilities’ ability to handle both training and competition requirements, as well as technology; local sports commission or other organization to partner with; sufficient hotel space; and having the venue and hotels within walking distance is a plus,” said King.
Following are some destinations across the U.S. with the experience and facilities to host gymnastics events.
Champaign County, Illinois
Champaign County is home to two gymnastics gyms: I-Power Gymnastics and Champaign Gymnastics Academy. Each fall, I-Power’s invitational attracts approximately 575 boy and girl athletes between the ages of eight and 17 to area high schools as well as The Leonard Center. The Champaign Gymnastics Academy hosts the Justin Spring Invitational, also for boys and girls eight to 17. This event attracts more than 1,000 competitors to the University of Illinois campus at the Activities and Recreation Center (ARC). In 2019, the region hosted the NCAA Men’s Gymnastics Championships at The State Farm Center.
The Leonard Center is an 8,000-square-foot multi-use facility in central Champaign featuring bleachers, a running track, locker rooms and multi-purpose rooms. The ARC facility features 340,000 square feet. The State Farm Center arena seats just over 15,000 people and has 24,000 square feet of floor space.
For the off-hours, there is Elevate, the local trampoline park that is popular with gymnastics competitors. Downtown Champaign has over 40 locally owned restaurants and bars, as well as shopping. There are 4,500 hotels, nearly all of them within five miles of each venue.
Champaign is highly accessible, located at the meeting place of the three major interstates that cross Illinois, and only a few hours from Chicago, Indianapolis and St. Louis.
“We love to enhance events,” said Ryan Reid, director of sports and special events for Visit Champaign County. “We often help solicit volunteers. We’ll put together welcome packets, set up welcome tables and provide area information in-person to promote the community.”
Ocean Center, Daytona Beach, Florida
For a sun and beach location, Daytona Beach is hard to beat with its 300-plus days of sunshine each year. Located in the heart of Daytona Beach and only 400 feet from the Atlantic, Ocean Center is a convention, entertainment and sports complex, and a prime location for a gymnastics event. Ocean Center is a world-class venue with more than 200,000 square feet of multi-use space that has hosted, among other events, gymnastics, cheer and dance competitions.
The facility has been home to the 2013 National Judges Cup Championship and the Daytona Beach Classic in 2015, 2017, 2018 and 2019 as well as the Ace Gymnastics Daytona Beach Open 2008 through 2019; the Team Florida State Championship; the USAG World Trampoline and Tumbling Championships in 2014; and the USAG Pan American Gymnastics Union Rhythmic Championships in 2017.
The flexible facility includes an exhibit hall, arena, ballroom and over 32 spacious meeting rooms. The arena covers 42,146 square feet and can seat 9,600.
“The Ocean Center is situated directly across from shopping, restaurants and entertainment and is surrounded by first-class accommodations,” said Tim Buckley, director of sales and marketing. “With year-round sunny skies and warm hospitality and service, the Ocean Center is a preferred destination for many event planners.”
Greensboro, North Carolina
Greensboro’s Coliseum Complex recently hosted several gymnastics events, including the AT&T America Cup, the Nastia Liukin Cup and the Greensboro Gymnastics Invitational. Events attract as many as 300 to 400 participants and 1,500 to 2,000 spectators to the Greensboro Coliseum Complex, an entertainment and sports complex with seating for up to 23,000. The complex is comprised of eight venues, including an amphitheater, arena, aquatic center, banquet hall, convention center, museum, theatre and an indoor pavilion.
The region features 16,000 total hotel rooms, and there is a variety of shopping and dining options close to the coliseum complex. Activities for the off-hours include the Civil Rights Museum and Greensboro Science Center as well as water parks. The Guilford Courthouse National Military Park features displays on the American Revolution, and the Bog Garden is a wetlands area with flowers, birds and an elevated boardwalk.
The local convention and visitors’ bureau provides athletes and their families with information about housing and attractions.
“Our service team also provides welcome bags with visitor guides and things to do, eat and play, and maps of the local area,” said Dennis Edward, sports sales manager for the Greensboro CVB.
Lubbock has been the host of multiple gymnastics invitational competitions, multiple state championships, and three regional championships since 2003. This year, for the USA Gymnastics Region 3 championships, 1,103 gymnasts traveled from five states to participate. The Lubbock Memorial Civic Center features 300,000 square feet of space plus a lakeside amphitheater. In 2015, the building underwent extensive renovations.
The city boasts 5,500 hotel rooms and is accessible by five major highways and the Lubbock Preston Smith International Airport, which is serviced by Southwest Airlines, United Airlines and American Airlines.
Downtown Lubbock has restaurants as well as shopping and attractions such as 4ORE! Golf, Adventure Park, Sup LBK paddle boarding, Texas Tech University’s Public Art Collection, and West End Plaza.
“Visit Lubbock provides on-site registration as well as assistance with booking hotels and venues. In addition, the team offers welcome bags and true West Texas hospitality, so athletes, families and friends have the best experience in Lubbock,” said Scott Harrison, sports sales manager for Visit Lubbock.
In 2014, Mobile was home to the USA Gymnastics Alabama State Compulsory Championships, which attracted 1,018 gymnasts and 6,000 attendees. In 2015, it hosted USA Gymnastics Region 8 (Level 7 & 8) Championships (620 gymnasts). In 2017, it was home to USA Gymnastics AL Optional & XCEL Championship Meet and the 2017 USA Gymnastics Region 8 (Levels 6, 7, & 8) Championships. Last year, it hosted the 2018 USA Gymnastics AL Optional & XCEL Championship Meet.
Mobile features the 317,000-square-foot Arthur R. Outlaw - Mobile Convention Center. Additionally, there is the Mobile Civic Center, Mobile’s largest multi-purpose sports facility. The Civic Center has three venues: a theater, expo hall and a seven-story arena that seats over 10,000. There is also the 10,000-plus-seat Mitchell Center at the University of South Alabama.
Mobile boasts a subtropical climate and 60 miles of beaches 45 minutes from downtown, and it’s ideal for year-round activities. There are approximately 7,700 hotel rooms and Mobile is easily accessible to the I-10/I-65 corridor. For after hours, there is the Mobile Museum of Art, Gulf Coast Exploreum Science Center and IMAX Theater, and the Dora Franklin Finley African American Heritage Trail.
The Mobile Sports Authority provides a variety of services. It can recruit volunteers and provide services commensurate with the event to be hosted. The warm regional welcome is just one more point in its favor, say city officials.
“Mobile is a culturally diverse city with a rich history and classic Southern charm,” said Danny Corte, executive director of Mobile Sports Authority. “Mobilians love to showcase their Southern hospitality by welcoming visitors from all over the world.”
Rocky Mount Event Center, North Carolina
Since opening in October 2018, Rocky Mount Event Center has hosted the North Carolina AUU State Championship in April, which attracted 865 participants from 29 gymnastics clubs and 2,200 spectators. In January 2020, the venue will host its second gymnastics event: the Rocky Mount Rumble Gymnastics Challenge.
The 75,000-square-foot fieldhouse can be converted into a master event space and/or three full gymnastics or cheer floors with stadium seating for 4,000. There are four large locker rooms and a mezzanine on the second floor for observation.
The Rocky Mount Event Center houses a family entertainment center, Game Day Adventure & Arcade, which includes 17 themed climbing walls, arcade games, aerial ropes course, a soft play area and three concession stands. Nearby is downtown Rocky Mount, with restaurants, shopping and more than 2,500 hotel rooms. The hotels are approximately a seven-minute drive from Rocky Mount Event Center.
“More hotels are being built in Rocky Mount and plans have just been released for a hotel in downtown Rocky Mount that will be walking distance from Rocky Mount Event Center,” said Ashley Pittman, marketing manager for the Rocky Mount Event Center, which offers event planners assistance with welcome packages and other services.
From its opening in 2007, the Sevierville Convention Center has hosted a variety of dance, cheer and gymnastics events sponsored by Epic Dance, Dance Machine, the Double Down Championships, Star Talent and others.
The Sevierville Convention Center can accommodate events of almost any size. The center offers just over 108,000 square feet of total exhibit hall space which can be divided into two separate halls offering 41,749 and 66,496 square feet, respectively. There are also ballrooms with a total combined space of just over 19,000 square feet that can be divided for special events.
Sevierville is a highly accessible location near multiple major interstates within a day’s drive of over half the nation’s population east of the Mississippi River. Nestled in the foothills of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Sevierville, together with its neighboring sister cities, Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg, has activities to offer after hours, including Tennessee Smokies Baseball, NASCAR SpeedPark, Rainforest Adventures and Dollywood. Nearby are 2,765 hotel rooms. The Sevierville Convention Center is also connected to Wilderness at the Smokies Waterpark Resort, which features 713 units as well as indoor and outdoor waterparks.
“We work very hard to educate our clients on all there is to do, see and experience in our area and we are always happy to connect planners with attractions partners, thus creating a full Smoky Mountain experience,” said Amanda Marr, director of marketing and communications for the Sevierville Chamber of Commerce.
Valley Forge, Pennsylvania
Valley Forge has hosted a variety of gymnastics and cheer events in the past, including the EnerGY National Dance Competition Spring Regionals at the 10,000 square-foot Valley Forge Casino. The region’s Expo Center will also host the Philly Fall Fest in October and the Liberty Cup in December, and the 2020 Tumbling and Trampoline Championships next July. The Expo Center features 7,500 square feet of competition space with regulation floor space and two breakout rooms. Nearby, the Upper Merion High School will host the Turn It Up Dance Challenge next April. Also available are facilities at Montgomery County Community College in Blue Bell and Ursinus College in Collegeville.
The region is home to the King of Prussia Mall, the Philadelphia Premium Outlets and the LEGOLAND Discovery Center. Valley Forge and Montgomery County have 8,500 hotel rooms, and all major highways lead through Montgomery County.
“The Valley Forge Tourism & Convention Board helps organizers pull off the perfect sporting event or team activity with site selection and service referrals,” said Marc Kaminetsky, director of sports, tourism and convention sales. “We can help you come up with itineraries for off-time activities and sightseeing, coordinate accommodations within your budget, support your scheduling and assist with local volunteers.” SDM