America's Finest Facilities: A Tour
30 Apr, 2009By: Juli Anne Patty
Every few minutes in America, a new sports lover is born. From swimmers and skiers to fast-pitchers and quarterbacks, America's athletes are many and passionate, and it takes a vast array of events to slake their sporting appetites. For the sports event planners out there, the first step to planning an event that will satisfy those masses is finding the perfect home. Fortunately, America has an impressive selection of phenomenal facilities, too. If you're on the hunt for your event's ideal location, you've come to the right place. Here are a few of America's finest facilities that should definitely be on your radar.
Osage Beach, Missouri
For a sports event that's as beautiful as it is easily executed, check out the Osage Beach Sports Complex. Located within 92-acre Osage Beach City Park, Osage Beach Sports Complex offers three soccer fields, soonto be outfitted with lighting and high intensity scoreboards, and three 300-foot, league-size baseball/softball fields with lighting, high intensity scoreboards and press boxes.
"Surrounded by the Lake of the Ozarks State Park, Osage Beach City Park boasts 1,500 feet of Lake of the Ozarks frontage," says Jeana Albertson, assistant city administrator, City of Osage Beach. "Combined with the park's facilities and Osage Beach, Mo., as a premier resort destination, the Osage Beach Sports Complex would make a wonderful destination for a baseball, softball or soccer event."
With 450 spaces, Osage Beach City Park makes parking easy. Seating is also simple, with 60-person, uncovered bleachers per soccer field and 80-person, uncovered bleachers at each of the baseball/softball fields. A centrally located facility offers a concession stand, the press box, large restrooms and a large, covered pavilion.
Outside the park, guests will find Missouri's largest state park system and a vast array of dining and lodging choices, perfect for satisfying visitors to any event. Learn more: www.osagebeach.org.
From cheerleading and martial arts to national baseball tournaments, Ford Park Event Center in Beaumont, Texas, is a multi-venue facility that offers the perfectlocation for a multitude of sports.
Ford Fields hosts more than 38 tournaments a year on 12 championship caliber, fast-pitch softball and youth baseball fields, includingfour turf-and-sand fields and eight all-weather fields, four with Olympia infield turf.
Ford Arena has hosted events as diverse as the Professional Bull Riders, Champions on Ice, the CHRISTUS Classic Pro/Celebrity tennis event and the United Cheer competition. Ford Exhibit Hall, site of numerous banquets and expos, has also hosted diverse events such as boxing matches and concerts. Outdoor events, including horse shows and dog trial competitions, find an ideal home at Ford Midway/Barns, and Ford Pavilion is an excellent outdoor theater-style venue for sports opening/closing ceremonies and cheerleading, dance or martial arts competitions. The Center offers 6,000 parking spaces, nine concession stands and seats more than 14,000 guests.
"Ford Park Event Center is really a world-class facility," says Joni Lambeth, sports convention and sales manager, Ford Park Event Center. "And Beaumont, with its wide variety of accommodations, dining and attractions, is the perfect home for any event."
Learn more: www.fordpark.com.
Round Rock, Texas
Round Rock's Sports Complexat Old Settlers Park is a premier 20-field youth baseball and softball complex.
"With $18.9 million in improvements in 2008 as well as 570 acres and more than three miles of trails, Old Settlers Park is more than just the ideal sports facility," says Nancy Yawn, director, Round Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau. "It's the perfect setting for nearly any event."
Old Settlers Park's softball complex includes a 1,750 square-foot shaded arbor area, four lighted batting cages, a tailgate island, permanent terraced seating at the championship field, covered playground and warm-up areas. The renovated baseball complex includes restrooms, shaded awnings, lighted batting cages, enhanced spectator seating, championship fields with a warming track and bull pen, centrally located playgrounds and tailgate islands.
Old Settlers Park is a baseball and softball destination, but also offers much more, including two lighted football fields, five regulation-size soccer fields, 12 lighted tennis courts along with a tennis pro shop, two sand volleyball courts, a professionally designed disc golf course and anaquatics center.
Located just outside of Austin, with a variety of dining and hotel choices and attractions, Round Rock will draw crowds for any sports event. Learn more: www.sportscapitaloftexas.com.
"Hummer Sports Park is a sporting venue for athletes young and old, a green space for outdoor civic events and an indoor sanctuary for public and private meetings of all kinds," says Rick Benke, park manager, Hummer Sports Park. "It's a sparkling example of the family-friendly entertainment and service that truly make Topeka shine."
The Hummer Sports Park has hosted many events, including NBC Baseball, state championship football, USA Women's Olympic Softball team exhibition games, the Missouri Valley District AAU Track and Field meet and the Big 12 cross country championships.
A six-sport facility located near downtown Topeka, the Park features a 6,000-seat AstroPlay football field; an all-weather eight-lane track; a 2,000-seat AstroPlay soccer stadium; two 500-seat baseball diamonds; and two 500-seat natural turf softball fields, covered dugouts, fenced bullpens and batting cages. Both softball and baseball areas have room for up to 3,000 temporary bleachers. The Park also offers a 1,000-seat natatorium with a 50-meter Olympic-sized pool, locker rooms, concessions and offices.
Additionally, Hummer Sports Park's knowledgeable staff ensures that every event is executed with the utmost satisfaction and success. That's critical because the $17.5 million facility brings thousands of competitors and fans to Topeka each year.
Learn more: www.hummersportspark.com.
For years the city of Oxford and LafayetteCounty have endeavored to build an athletic facility to meet the needs of the area's youth. That time has come with FNC Park, home of Oxford-Lafayette Fields. Celebrating its grand opening in April 2009, this major new development features over 75 acres of soccer, baseball and softball fields.
"FNC Park is one of its kind in the state of Mississippi," says Brad Freeman, planning and marketing director, FNC Park. "It comes with more than just exceptional facilities. People who host their events here also get the charm of a great old southern town - Oxford, Mississippi."
FNC Park provides five regulation-size lighted soccer fields; eight lighted baseball fields ranging from 200-280 feet; and three lighted 315-foot softball fields. Four conveniently located concession buildings make it easy to conquer those tournament appetites, and 950 parking spotsmake it easy to get in and out of FNC Park.
The park's Trailhead Pavilion offers shade and seating and leads to walking trails. FNC Park will soon be home to an emerging sport: bicycle motocross, or BMX, which made its Olympic debut in 2008. FNC Park's state-of-the-art BMX competition facility will open soon.
Learn more: www.fncpark.com.
South Sioux City, Nebraska
South Sioux City is part of the Iowa, South Dakota and Nebraska tri-state region known as Siouxland, where sports are a big part of life. But while excellent sports facilities are a South Sioux City priority, the city offers a lot more than just sports.
"In Sioux City, we're proud to say we've got great sports facilities and everything else you might want, too," says Donna Goodier, director, South Sioux City Convention and Visitors Bureau. "If you're planning an athletic competition, you can count on our facilities as well as our hunting, fishing, shopping, dining and the Missouri River to attract participants and make your event a success."
Nestled along the Missouri Riverfront, the Jeff C. Dible Soccer Complex has 15 fields that can be converted to different sizes. Adjacent to Dible Soccer Complex, Scenic Park provides a variety of recreational facilities, including boat ramps, fishing, picnic facilities and playgrounds. The Norm Waitt Jr. YMCA features a lap and family fun pool, and the Marina Inn Conference Center provides event planners with 45,000 square feet of flexible event space.
With its variety of venues and lodging, South Sioux City makes an ideal home for any event.
Learn more: www.visitsouthsiouxcity.com.
In 2006, in one of America's largest synthetic turf projects, Athletes in Action (AIA) installed seven sports fields onto the campus of their Global Headquarters in Xenia, Ohio. Coupled with their Conference and Retreat Center, the Sports Complex serves as an ideal location to help individuals impacted by sports to grow athletically, mentally and spiritually.
"Our facility is perfect for a variety of athletic events, including soccer, softball, baseball, football, lacrosse and track & field," says Kevin Geiss, Athletes in Action. "The Sports Complex has allowed us to provide our community with a first-class sports facility and to expand our mission to build spiritual movements everywhere through the platform of sport."
The AIA Sports Complex includes two soccer fields, one football fieldwith running track, one baseball field, two softball fields, two outdoor volleyball courts and a challenge course. AIA has plans for even more. In order to create a classic baseball atmosphere, AIA plans to build a 550-seat covered stadium, including 100 chair-back seats and a press box.
Since the Complex opened in 2007, Athletes in Action has hosted over 70 college and high school teams, programs, camps and tournaments.
Learn more: www.aia.com/sportscomplex.
Binghamton, New York
Home of Binghamton University Bearcats Basketball, the Binghamton University Events Center was designed to support a variety of sporting events and provide guests with outstanding sight lines, comfortable seating and a great atmosphere.
"We're proud to offer our university and the community a top athletic facility," says Eric Backlund, director, Binghamton University Events Center. "In addition to exceptional facilities, we offer sports planners the staff and experience to launch outstanding events."
The Binghamton Event Center offers a six-lane, 200-meter Mondo surface competition track, four tennis courts, removable basketball court, new strength and conditioning rooms, and a curtain system that allows for multiple simultaneous sporting events. Designed by Einhorn, Yaffee & Prescott Architects and Engineers, the three-level Events Center includes concession stands, public restrooms and coaches' offices.
Binghamton Event Center has the facility covered, and the surrounding community of Binghamton provides everything else an event needs to succeed. More than 50 restaurants are less than five minutes away, and the Center is within reach of 10 hotels. More than 100 shops and attractions, such as the Binghamton Zoo at Ross Park and the Discovery Center of the Southern Tier, are all within 5-10 miles of campus.
Learn more: www.eventscenter.binghamton.edu.
"The Maryland SoccerPlex began in 1988 asa dream of a high quality multi-field soccer facility in suburban Maryland," says Trish Heffelfinger, director, Maryland Soccer Foundation. "The entire soccer community came together and, in October 2000, the Maryland SoccerPlex opened."
Located in Montgomery County, the Maryland SoccerPlex is one of America's premier sports and recreation facilities. One of the complex's top attractions is the 115 x 75 yard Championship Stadium, which sits in a natural bowl surrounded by a paved, lighted plaza. Championship Stadium offers broadcast quality Musco lighting and KwikGoal Pro Premier World Competition Goals.
The Championship Stadium has hosted a wealth of high-profile events, including the U.S. Olympic qualifier and MLS Open Cup matches, among many others. Additionally, the Discovery Sports Center indoor arena is a multi-sport facility that can host volleyball, soccer, basketball, cheerleading, trade shows and expos.
In 2009, the stadium will undergo a series of exciting improvements, including increasing seating capacity to 5,200 with corresponding restroom facilities, as well as a press box and box office.
Annually, the Maryland SoccerPlex welcomes over 600,000 visitors who watch and play more than 4,500 matches, including some of America's most competitive youth soccer tournaments.
Learn more: www.mdsoccerplex.org.
With 500 miles of scenic byways, Redding is California's natural getaway, and with the Redding Soccer Park, it's California's natural place to play sports too.
"The Redding Soccer Park isa one-of-a-kind, ‘state-of-the-sport' soccer facility," says Sherry Ferguson, director of sales, Redding Convention and Visitors Bureau. "In addition, Redding is the ideal destination, especially forfamily oriented activities, with a huge range of affordable dining and lodging choices."
The Redding Soccer Park boasts four, all-weather, synthetic turf NCAA regulation-size, lighted fields. The 22-acre complex has an abundance of free parking, a restaurant, over 2,000 square feet of covered, misted seating, and a play area featuring slides and climbing walls. Additionally, there's a pro-shop for last minute playing needs and a classroom/meeting room accommodating up to 50 people.
The Redding Soccer Park experience begins with a delicious coffee, then a game or two, viewed from raised walkways around each field or under the restaurant's covered seating with two flat screen TVs. Celebrate postgame in one of the many reserved areas and order a team lunch from the on-site kitchen.
Appropriate for soccer, lacrosse, rugby and flag football, Redding Soccer Park's fields are ready to host the perfect sports event.
Learn more: www.reddingsoccerpark.com.
Rock Hill, South Carolina
Visitors to the York County's villages, including Rock Hill, S.C., will find a community that puts a premium on sports. Watersports fans in particular will enjoy the Rock Hill Aquatic Center, a 41,000 square-footswimming facility located just 20 minutes south of Charlotte, N.C.
"We're fortunate to have such a fine resource as the Rock Hill Aquatic Center," says Robert Thomas, sports marketing coordinator, Rock Hill/York County Convention and Visitors Bureau. "A partnership between Rock Hill Area YMCAs and Rock Hill Schools, this excellent facility serves York County with everything from senior aquatic classes to rehabilitative programming."
Rock Hill Aquatic Center is a first-rate competition facility as well. The facility has two indoor pools: a 10-lane, 25-yard by 25-meter, cool water competition pool, and a 25-yard, eight-lane warm water pool. Rock Hill Aquatic Center has unsurpassed acoustical abilities as well as a full color timing/display board and in-ground cabling for electronic timing. Based on state-of-the-art facility specifications, the Rock Hill Aquatic Center draws thousands of competitors annually for major national and regional swim meets.
Near affordable dining and lodging options, as well as attractions like Historic Brattonsville plantation, Rock Hill Aquatic Center is the ideal aquatics site.
Learn more: www.visityorkcounty.com.
Indoor sports have an exceptional home in Boise, Idaho.
"Qwest Arena is the most original indoor sports and events arena in the Northwest," says John Cunningham, CEO, Qwest Arena. "We provide the Treasure Valley with thrilling sporting events, quality entertainment, exquisite dining, health, fitness and comfort all in one exceptional facility."
Located in downtown Boise, Qwest Arena is steps away from shopping, restaurants and local businesses. It features 17,000 square feet of floor space, bowl seating for 5,000, 39 entertainment viewing suites and additional floor seating depending on configuration. In addition to superior facilities, Qwest Arena is also unique in that it connects to Boise's only 4-diamond, 250-room luxury hotel, The Grove Hotel.
Home to professional hockey, basketball and arena football, Qwest Arena can accommodate a variety of sporting events. The Arena's concrete floor can be covered with ice, thefacility's synthetic football surface or a hardwood basketball floor.
The Arena has hosted many world-class events with worldwide media such as Special Olympics 2009 World Winter Games, an NHL pre-season game, USA Women's Olympic hockey and internationally televised professional boxing events. Qwest Arena offers the service, amenities, flexibility and luxury accommodations to make any event world-class.
Learn more: www.qwestarenaidaho.com.
America's first continuous English-speaking settlement, Hampton, Va. is called the "City of Firsts." For sporting events, Hampton is also one of America's finest.
Located in the Hampton Roads region, the Hampton Roads Convention Center presents an incomparable destination for any amateur athletic event. The 344,000 square-foot convention center is accompanied by the 84,000 square-foot Hampton Coliseum arena; the brand-new $13.5 million, 135,000 square-foot Boo Williams Sportplex; and the Hampton University Convocation Center.
The 108,000 square-foot exhibit hall is divisible into three independent spaces, each featuring climate control, oversized loading docks, unlimited floor load, electrical and water access, concession stands, restrooms and event offices. The convention center offers state-of-the-art sound and lighting equipped for radio and television broadcasts and can accommodate a variety of sports, in some cases simultaneously, including basketball, volleyball, indoor hockey, bowling, gymnastics, martial arts and bodybuilding, just to name a few.
"Inaddition to the convention center's outstanding, flexible facilities, the city of Hampton has a lot to offer," says Kris Smith, group sales manager, Hampton Convention and Visitors Bureau. "Our greatest appeal lies in the economic value we offer, convenient accessibility, widely appealing attractions and state-of-the-art venues."
Learn more: www.sportshampton.com.
Harlingen's serious soccer commitment is clear when you see the new state-of-the-art Harlingen Soccer Complex.
"This facility is a longtime dream of the soccer fans in our community," says Jeff Lyssy, director of parks and recreation, City of Harlingen. "Now that we've achieved that dream, we're excited to share our facility with tournament planners and soccer fanatics from all over the country."
Opened in November 2008, the Complex boasts 10 regulation-size fields, six of which are lighted. Two championship fields are lighted with higher-foot candles for those intense final matches. Visitors who would enjoy a great run or walk will enjoy the 1.2-mile trail that winds around the complex. With 650 parking spaces, covered pavilions, irrigation ponds and a concession stand, the Harlingen Soccer Complex is the perfect fit for any tournament.
In just a few short months, Harlingen has hosted International tournaments with more than 100 teams participating. Ideally located for out-of-town participants, the complex is easy to access via main thoroughfares and is close to the airport and lodging.
With top-rated soccer facilities, central location, more than 100 restaurants and a variety of lodging choices, Harlingen is a superlative site for any event.
Learn more: www.myharlingen.us.
Long Island, New York
Long Island, N.Y. unites an exceptional location phenomenon with facilities. Mitchel Athletic Sports Complex, located in Uniondale, Long Island, is a diverse sports center with multi-purpose fields that can accommodate soccer, lacrosse, softball, baseball and football. The state-of-the-art track and field stadium is broadcast-ready with lighting, press boxes and ample locker rooms.
Site of events for the 1998 Goodwill Games, the Mitchel Athletic Sports Complex is also home to the professional lacrosse team, the Long Island Lizards.
A 49-acre complex centrally located just west of Nassau Coliseum and opposite the Long Island Children's and Aviation museums, Mitchel hosts avariety of local high school, collegiate and professional athletic events.
"Mitchel is a versatile sports complex that provides a spectacular, professional setting for afull range of popular sports," says Jennifer Rothman, sports sales manager, Long Island Convention and Visitors Bureau & Sports Commission. "We're proud to have such an excellent facility in LongIsland, which is the perfect spot for sports with its proximity to all New York City offers, including easy transportation."
And with the support of the Long Island CVB and Sports Commission and its volunteer database of 2,800, whygo anywhere else?
Learn more: www.discoverlongisland.com/sports.
Steeped in Akron's historical industrial era charm, Firestone Stadium remains one of the area's premier sporting venues. After a $3.5 million renovation, the stadium offers teams an even more impressive array of amenities and services.
In addition to the Ohio High School Athletic Association Regional Tournament, held at Firestone since 1998, Firestone hosted the 2007 NCAA Division II softball finals and will host the PONY National Championships from 2009-2011.
Built in 1925, Firestone offers three fields: the lighted Firestone Stadium Main Field; Firestone Pony Field; and Colonial Salt Field, a warm-up facility. Firestone seats 2,500 spectators and provides two locker rooms, coaches' meeting rooms and centrally located scoreboard and professional sound system, both of which are operated from the press box. Firestone also has parking for 575 vehicles as well as bus spaces.
"Akron has a history of pioneering industry and innovation, and Firestone Stadium, built by Harvey Firestone of the Firestone Tire and Rubber Company, is just another example of that heritage," says Joey Arrietta, general manager, Firestone Stadium. "Today we honor that heritage by executing successful, world-class events."
Conveniently located near downtown Akron, Firestone is situated among retail, dining and overnight accommodations for every budget.
Learn more: www.visitakron-summit.org.
When it comes to sports facilities, Knoxville, Tenn. has some heavyweight competitors, including the Knoxville Convention Center (KCC).
"The KCC is 120,000 square feet of prime, flexible sports and event space, and sports event planners were quick to notice," says Jennifer Morris,sports sales manager, Knoxville Tourism & Sports Corporation. "Since its 2002 grand opening, the Knoxville Convention Center has already played host to events like the American Bowling Congress, AAU Junior Olympic Games and the USA Gymnastics Boy's Region 8."
Equipped with an underground loading dock and drive-on access, ease of event execution is just one of thefeatures planners appreciate about the KCC. Exhibit Halls A & B feature 70,000 square feet and 50,000 square feet of flexible event space respectively, where a variety of fields, courts, etc. canbe easily created. More than 1,000 spaces mean that KCC parking is never a problem.
The KCC's downtown location puts visitors within walking distance of numerous hotels and attractions, including the Knoxville Museum of Art and theMarket Square District's boutiques and eateries. Sitting on the recently renovated World's Fair Park site, the KCC features two festival lawns and a covered amphitheater seating up to 1,000.
Learn more: www.knoxville.org.
Jefferson City, Missouri
In Jefferson City, central location and outstanding facilities come together to make a great site for any event. After a recent renovation, the Binder Softball Complex is making a pitch tobe Missouri's superior site for softball.
"The renovation of the ball fields at the Binder Softball Complex makes it a prime venue for all types of softball and youth baseball," says Daniel Helton, sales manager, Jefferson City Convention and Visitors Bureau. "In addition to the renovations, the fields are located in a picturesque park that allows for many other family activities."
Binder Softball Complex has five 300-foot softball fields total, including three renovated fields with outfield and infield dust control irrigation. Eachfield has approximately 100 moveable seats with a concrete area allowing for more, as well as large areas of lawn for lawn chair seating. The complex also offers over 400 parking spaces and two concession stands, providing all the ballpark favorites, and is located in a park that puts a variety of additional activities like sand volleyball and disc golf nearby.
Binder Softball Complex puts visitors close to all Jefferson City offers, including attractions, restaurants and 13 hotels that offer competitive group rates.
Learn more: www.visitjeffersoncity.com.
Louisiana has a reputation for sports excellence, and they've got afacility to prove it: the CenturyTel Center is the premiere sports and entertainment facility in Northern Louisiana.
"Shreveport-Bossier is a great place to hold an event," says Kelly Wells, vice president of tourism marketing, Shreveport-Bossier Convention and Tourist Bureau. "We've got a mixture of the wide-open Texas spirit and the spicy Cajun attitude. And with the CenturyTel Center, we offer a great way to give any event a taste of the Northern Louisiana flavor."
Home to the CHL Shreveport-Bossier Mudbugs and the af2's Bossier-Shreveport Battlewings, the 13,000-seat capacity CenturyTel arena offers a variety of sporting and size configurations. The arena offers upholstered seating with cup-holders, state-of-the-art locker rooms, meeting space, scoreboard and sound/video equipment. In addition, the SMG-managed facility offers a complete staff of operations, marketing, event services and food and beverage personnel to helpmake every sporting event a success. Most recently the host of the 2009 Bassmaster Classic tournament weigh-ins, CenturyTel is the perfect host for any sporting event, from hockey to rodeos.
Located between Dallas, Jackson, LittleRock and Lafayette, more than 2 million people are within an hour's drive of CenturyTel Center.
Learn more: www.shreveport-bossier.org.