Tournament Organizers Score with Showcase Venues
Soccer is the most popular sport in the world, and while it shares the spotlight in the U.S. with football, baseball and basketball, it nonetheless is played by millions of Americans of all ages. That means that communities across the country have been building and renovating sports facilities to accommodate the sport’s tournaments and events.
“The Aurora Area Convention & Visitors Bureau is very fortunate to have one of the largest outdoor soccer complexes in the country, Stuart Sports Complex,” says Pete Garlock, the director of sales for the AACVB.
The Stuart facility encompasses 317 acres, with 32 full-size soccer fields. There are no permanent seating structures, “but plenty of room for tents, lawn chairs and blankets,” Garlock adds. Amenities include a permanent concession stand and mobile concession cart, restrooms, a playground with a splash pad, 15-acre fenced-in dog park (with separate areas for large and small dogs), disc golf course and 1,300 parking spaces.
Some of the larger soccer events held in the Aurora area include the PepsiCo Showdown Soccer Series, featuring 100 games with more than 1,500 players; the Galaxy Soccer–Great Lakes Soccer Challenge, with 235 teams; the Evolution Soccer Chicago Development Showcase, with 150 teams; the Aurora Kickers Puma Illinois College Showcase, with 127 teams; and the Alianza de Futbol, with 120 teams.
“The Stuart complex is maintained by the Fox Valley Park District, which works hand-in-hand with the AACVB to host some of the best amateur soccer events in the country,” Garlock says. For 2021, there are a number of high-profile events on the schedule.
The AACVB can help tournament organizers in all aspects of bringing events to Aurora, including finding hotels (there are more than 5,000 hotel rooms in the region), suggesting venues for special events, restaurants, attractions and more. “We can also pinpoint officials, judges or umpires, as well as security and medical personnel,” Garlock notes.
Bullhead City, Arizona
The 300-acre Rotary Park in Bullhead City, Arizona, located along the Colorado River, dedicates 51 acres to soccer fields, so there is plenty of room for tournaments and events of all sizes. Amenities at the park include beach access, a dog park, a playground with a shaded area, restrooms, a lighted skate park and other sports venues.
Bullhead City also has indoor field space at the Anderson Auto Group Fieldhouse (AGF), with approximately 126,000 square feet of floor space with permanent bleacher seating for about 4,500 fans. Events at the climate-controlled AGF can utilize the full kitchen and concession areas, meeting rooms, Wi-Fi and more.
In recent years, Bullhead City played host to the Colorado River Youth Invitational soccer event, drawing 150 teams, over 2,500 players and more than 5,000 spectators. The city also hosted the River Daze Youth Soccer Tournament, with 100 teams, 2,000 players and over 5,000 spectators. This April, more than 80 teams are expected for the River Daze event, and another 150 teams for the Showtime Sports Youth Soccer tournament. Also in April is the Real FC Cup, a $25,000 prize money adult soccer tourney, with 48 teams signed up as of mid-February.
Off the field, “If you’re looking for a little fun, we have golf and mini golf, go-kart racing, batting cages, lots of water activities on the beautiful Colorado River, shopping and much more,” says Jackie Walker, interim recreation manager for Bullhead City. “Our neighboring city, Laughlin, Nevada, is home to 11 hotel casinos with great restaurants, movie theaters, bowling, laser tag and arcades.”
The beautiful Jack Allen Recreation Complex in Decatur, Alabama includes 77 acres of manicured turf that can accommodate 10 international-size soccer fields. The complex includes a championship field with artificial turf, bleacher seating for 2,500, and a fully equipped press box. Additionally, the Spirit of America venue, located on the grounds of Point Mallard, can accommodate up to three full-size fields.
Each April, Decatur hosts the Open Cup, presented by Premier Soccer Services, with two weekends of games (one for girls and one for boys), each attracting 50 to 75 teams from around the Southeast. Additionally, Premier Soccer Services hosts two fall tournaments in November, the Labor Day Cup and the Junior Cup, which each bring in about 40 teams. In May, the city hosts the Alabama Soccer Association (ASA) State Cup. “This summer, we’ll host the USYS President’s Cup in June with 144 teams from around the Southeast,” says Don B. Dukemineer, director of sports development for Decatur Morgan County Tourism.
“Our tourism team works with organizers from start to finish to understand and meet the needs and anticipations of any event,” Dukemineer adds. “Our facilities provide excellent venues to accommodate all types of events, and our team strives to make sure all visitors have a wonderful experience in Decatur-Morgan County.”
Goldsboro/Wayne County, North Carolina
Goldsboro is home to one of the most unique sports facilities in the country, the Bryan Multi-Sports Complex, which is the product of the first joint “P4” collaboration (“Practical Public-Private Partnership”) between a military base and its home community. The collaboration between the City of Goldsboro and Seymour Johnson Air Force Base is part of a pilot project to share resources among government and private entities. The U.S. Air Force leased land to the city to promote economic impact, and in return, the city built a new addition to the base’s main fitness center for airmen and their families.
The result is the Bryan Multi-Sports Complex, which opened in April 2018 on 63 acres of Seymour Johnson AFB. The complex includes six irrigated grass fields and two artificial turf fields (three are lighted), concession facilities, restrooms, walking trails, more than 400 paved parking spots, a playground and, soon, a custom Splash Pad. Plus, there’s “nowhere else in the world where a site has a static display of an F-4 Phantom greeting its athletes and spectators upon arrival,” says Ashlin Glatthar, director of travel and tourism for Goldsboro-Wayne County.
North Carolina’s temperate climate is ideal for outdoor sports like soccer, and the city of Goldsboro has over 1,000 hotel rooms within five miles of the complex, along with plenty of dining options.
Gulf Shores/Orange Beach, Alabama
The Alabama Gulf Coast is awash in sunshine, history, culture and natural beauty, including 32 miles of white-sand beaches. It also has a solid foundation in hosting soccer events.
The Orange Beach Sportsplex offers two full-size soccer fields and is home to the SEC Women’s Soccer Tournament (currently scheduled for October 31-November 7) and the NAIA Women’s Soccer National Championship (November 30-December 6), with seating capacity for 1,500 spectators. In addition, the Orange Beach Sportsplex accommodates youth soccer events, while the Gulf Shores Sportsplex has two fields that can be lined for soccer play.
Due to the pandemic, the 2020 SEC tournament took place in a modified format, featuring all 14 SEC teams, social distancing and 50 percent venue capacity. The 2020 NAIA championship was rescheduled for the spring of 2021 and will take place just north of Orange Beach in Foley, Alabama, but the 2021 championship will be back in Orange Beach this November with COVID precautions in place.
“Gulf Shores/Orange Beach Sports & Events assists planners by seeking the best group accommodation options and rates; providing welcome bags with coupons and offering grants; coordinating on-site event activities, including opening ceremonies, banquets, clinics and community service projects based on the size of the event; recommending vendors and suppliers; and supplying marketing and promotional tools,” says Ally Mills Dorrough, communications and marketing specialist.
Off the field, the area offers plenty of diversions for athletes, families and fans, including deep sea fishing, shopping and dining at a variety of restaurants.
Among the outstanding sports facilities in Lubbock is the top-notch and recently renovated, 151-acre Berl Huffman Athletic Complex, which offers 44 soccer fields that can be configured in sizes for all age groups. Ten of those fields are artificial turf, and the complex has concession areas and restrooms on-site, in addition to LED lighting. Lubbock boasts an average of 265 days of sunshine a year, and the addition of covered bleachers and pavilions at Berl Huffman ensure a comfortable experience for fans and families.
Lubbock also offers the John Walker Soccer Complex, which is home to a state-of-the-art FieldTurf surface. John Walker also features locker rooms, players’ lounge with state-of-the-art video system, concessions and seating for 1,500 fans. Additionally, the Lubbock Christian University (LCU) Soccer Field boasts an Astro Turf surface, offers seating for 750, a training room, locker rooms, officials’ locker room and a press box.
“Our team at Lubbock Sports is ready to compete with premier facilities, unmatched hospitality and a city full of entertainment,” says Scott Harrison, director of Lubbock Sports. “Regardless of the size of the tournament, we go toe-to-toe with our competitors to prove Lubbock is where you should host your next competition.”
Round Rock, Texas
The Round Rock Multipurpose Complex (RRMC), which opened for play in spring 2017, has become a premier location for all types of tournaments. The venue includes four natural grass multi-purpose fields and one natural grass championship field, and four synthetic turf multi-purpose fields and one synthetic turf championship field with Musco sports lighting.
The RRMC also features two large parking areas, restroom/concessions building, spectator amenities, meeting rooms, a playground and more.
“There are many features of the Round Rock Multipurpose Complex that we feel are special,” says Nancy Yawn, director of the Round Rock CVB. “For instance, both sides of the main building feature all-glass-window upstairs tournament/meeting rooms, which overlook the fields. Plus, there’s an athletic trainer room, officials’ lounge, and more.” The meeting rooms can be used for press conferences and coaching sessions, and have conveniently located electrical outlets, telephone and data lines and TV monitors.
“We’re proud to be The Sports Capital of Texas for youth, amateur and recreational sports because we have tournament-class facilities, athlete-friendly lodging and dining, and we’re located in the heart of Texas,” notes Yawn. “The people of Round Rock are the heart and soul, and really make it special.”
“Soccer is a popular sport in Snohomish County,” says Tammy Dunn, the executive director of the Snohomish County Sports Commission. “This is showcased by the large number of soccer clubs in Snohomish County and the longevity of the Snohomish Youth Soccer Club hosting the Snohomish Bigfoot Soccer Tournament for over 30 years.”
The premier facility for soccer is Stocker Fields, owned and operated by the Snohomish Youth Soccer Club and featuring up to 17 grass fields, which can be configured for various ages. The complex has hundreds of parking spaces, sideline seating for spectators and a vendor area for food trucks and more.
The Meadowdale Athletic Complex in Lynwood offers two lighted turf fields already lined for soccer, as well as restrooms, concession stands, a playground area and trails, along with bleacher seating. In Everett, Washington, Kasch Park has three lighted turf fields, restrooms, food truck areas, a playground and bleacher seating.
Fields at Lake Tye Park in Monroe are currently being renovated from grass to turf fields. When completed, there will be two all-weather, lighted, 210- by 338-foot soccer fields suitable for ages 13 through adults, plus smaller fields for 12-and-under play.
The venues in Snohomish County have played host to numerous soccer events of all sizes, including the 35-year-running Snohomish Bigfoot Soccer Tournament for boys and girls that typically brings in up to 200 teams, and one year topped 300 teams. The annual Kla Ha Ya Adult Soccer Tournament, played for 30-plus years, typically attracts more than 80 adult teams, as does the Mukilteo Turkey Shootout in November for boys and girls. SDM