Browsing New Sites, From the Comfort of Your Own Office | Sports Destination Management

Browsing New Sites, From the Comfort of Your Own Office

Jan 03, 2024 | By: Mary Helen Sprecher

Everyone has heard  the airline promotion that starts out with the words, "Wanna get away?" And while it is actually more aimed at leisure travelers, it applies to anyone who travels on sports business as well.


After all, who hasn’t needed a change of location, in this case, to have a novel place to host a sports event? There’s nothing that breathes new life into a tournament like a new destination, one that offers not only new venues but different views from the hotel room, different eateries and of course, different diversions for downtime?


For those seeking a new location for an event, Sports Destination Management has curated this list of great places from coast to coast. No matter where or how your sport plays out, no matter what age your athletes are, no matter what you’re looking for, you’re sure to find it here. (Bonus: You’ll be doing your preliminary site research without hitting a single airport.) Sit back, grab a cup of coffee and enjoy the armchair tour. We’re reviewing all states alphabetically. Oh, and if you need more information, you can reach out to these CVBs or sports commissions, who are sure to have all the answers you want.


Alabama: Gulf Shores and Orange Beach

alKnown for its 32 miles of natural white-sand beaches, biodiversity and Southern hospitality, Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, Alabama, is a family-friendly vacation mecca and has grown into a sports and event destination. While youth sports have traditionally been Gulf Shores | Orange Beach Sports & Events’ “bread and butter,” the organization has become strategically creative in its approach to pursuing new events, expanding existing events and marketing major leisure events.


The area’s natural venues include the beach (ideal for festivals, beach volleyball, handball and beach soccer); the Gulf of Mexico (perfect for triathlons and open water swims as well as shoreline and offshore fishing tournaments); various back bays and lagoons (kayaking, paddleboarding and inshore fishing); and Gulf State Park, with its nine distinct ecosystems, for a variety of festivals, events and races.


A new facility is expected to open at the Gulf Shores Sportsplex in late 2024: the Alabama Gulf Coast Sports Center. This multi-sport center will specialize in youth sports, fitness and personal training and will be the home of the Pleasure Island Volleyball Club.


As the tide continues to turn along the Alabama Gulf Coast, GS | OB Sports & Events will continue to seek opportunities to highlight its beaches, waterways and trails to enhance existing events and seek new business. But whether planners, athletes, families or fans want to plan an event or a sportcation, adventures await along Alabama’s Beaches. Visit to learn more.


Arizona: Surprise

azSurprise, Arizona is a sports lover’s dream, offering an abundance of sunshine, gorgeous mountain views, pristine sporting facilities and close proximity to a wide variety of amenities as part of the Phoenix Metro region.


Surprise offers 13 Major League Baseball fields, 25 championship tennis courts and 16 pickleball courts. Plus, it’s home to Major League Baseball’s Spring Training for the Kansas City Royals and Texas Rangers. College athletics are also big in Surprise. Located in the heart of the city on the Civic Center campus, Ottawa University Arizona offers a full complement of collegiate athletic programs and facilities including indoor basketball/volleyball courts and a football/soccer/lacrosse stadium with artificial turf.


The City of Surprise hosts a variety of tournaments and sporting events annually ranging from amateur showcase events to collegiate tournaments to professional leagues. Its partners are some of the best event organizers in the business including Major League Baseball, National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), Oregon State, United States Tennis Association, Perfect Game, USA Baseball and many more. Surprise strives to provide quality facilities, exemplary partner support and customer service to ensure every event is successful and both players and fans have an amazing experience.


Surprise also has a lot to offer off the field or court. With its Sonoran Desert landscape, breathtaking sunsets and exceptional dining, retail and entertainment amenities, Surprise has something for everyone. Check out for more information.


Arizona: Yuma

Photo courtesy of City Of Yuma
Photo courtesy of City Of Yuma

The Pacific Avenue Athletic Complex (PAAC) located in Yuma, Arizona is a state-of-the-art facility that is uniquely positioned to help tournaments get in front of a tremendously viable demographic. This sprawling 50-acre, multi-sport facility is perfect for youth or adult softball and baseball leagues as well as tournaments. The PAAC offers six lighted softball fields, including a championship field. The complex offers onsite facilities, an industrial kitchen with concessions, a walking trail, a pond and a playground for younger attendees.


The venue has hosted national tournaments such as the National Junior College Athletic Association’s Championships for softball in 2021 and 2022 and the 2022 PG Southwest Super Regional NIT. Yuma looks forward to welcoming back the NJCAA Championship tournament for softball in 2025.


“The Pacific Avenue Athletic Complex is a valuable sports venue for local and visiting players, families and friends. Locals love it due to the exceptional playing conditions and convenient location. Visitors love it for those same reasons, not to mention its amazing proximity to hotels, restaurants, shopping and attractions. That, plus a top-notch maintenance team, courteous on-site staff and the sunniest city in the world, all combine to make the PAAC one of the best places to play in the southwest,” says Eric Urfer, Director of Parks and Recreation, City of Yuma.


Illinois: DuPage County

ILLocated in the prestigious western suburbs of one of the world’s greatest sports cities, DuPage County is rich in history and sports tradition. Safely tucked away 20 miles from downtown Chicago, DuPage offers a world unto itself, known as Illinois’ best destination for recreation where small-town charm seamlessly blends with urban sophistication. DuPage is unrivaled in location and amenities, pairing true sports culture with convenience and value.


Offering the best of four seasons, DuPage regularly hosts golf, cycling, football, volleyball, soccer, lacrosse, racquetball, hockey and esports. DuPage is a fan favorite for championship bowling at Stardust Bowl, as well as high-caliber swimming and diving at FMC Natatorium at Ty Warner Park.


New in 2023 are the Adventure Falls Pickleball Courts located in Downers Grove in beautiful McCollum Park, a 50-acre outdoor recreational complex. Adventure Falls boasts eight pickleball courts, 16 additional temporary courts for tournaments, LED lighting and amenities including restrooms, concessions, Wi-Fi, 420 free parking spaces and additional recreational opportunities for all ages.


Step off the court and dine like a legend at Michael Jordan’s Steak House, Harry Caray’s Italian Steakhouse or Ditka’s. And take on the ultimate aerial challenge at The Forge: Lemont Quarries, an extreme adventure park. To learn more, visit


Illinois: Effingham

ILLocated in Central Illinois, where Interstate 57 meets Interstate 70, Effingham offers the perfect centralized location to meet and play with others. With its state-of-the-art facilities, 16 hotels, 65 restaurants and numerous attractions, Effingham is ready to help plan any sporting event.


Whether event owners need a venue to facilitate their tournament, a host hotel to accommodate their teams and fans or recommendations on the best places to dine, explore or play, Visit Effingham is available to provide the right resources to ensure any event is a success.


Effingham boasts a variety of options for athletes and their families. For example, the Richard E. Workman Sports and Wellness Complex provides several avenues of recreation, including a 15,500-square-foot maple hardwood court, an indoor track, an aquatic center and a fitness center. Effingham also offers plenty of other options for sporting events, including several parks run by the Effingham Park District, featuring lighted softball and baseball diamonds, tennis courts, soccer fields, disc golf courses and cross-country courses.


Visit Effingham can also assist with site selection, grant opportunities, media assistance, souvenirs and visitor information. To plan a new event or to learn more, contact Executive Director, Jodi Thoele at 217-342-5305 or or, or visit


Illinois: Elgin

ILThe Elgin Area is a hub for diverse sporting activities, featuring a range of sports centers that cater to everything from BMX and soccer to hockey and basketball. These facilities are not just for sports enthusiasts but also serve as prime locations for tournament directors seeking the perfect venue for games and events. Whether a visitor is a competitive athlete in search of training facilities, a family looking for recreational fun or a tournament director planning the next event, the Elgin Area has something for everyone.


A highlight of the area is the Ortho Illinois Fieldhouse in Carpentersville, Illinois. This brand-new indoor facility spans 17,000 square feet and boasts two large turf fields, making it ideal for sports like lacrosse and soccer, especially during the colder months.


Another notable venue is the recently renovated Dawson Field at Judson University in Elgin, Illinois. As the only outdoor turf field in the vicinity, it offers a picturesque setting along the Fox River. This field is versatile, accommodating sports like flag football, soccer and lacrosse. Summer is the best time to rent Dawson Field, coinciding with the collegiate sports break.


For more information about these and other sports facilities in the Elgin Area, Sales Executive Ryan Cortez can be contacted at


Illinois: Kankakee

ILExplore the captivating charm of Kankakee County, located just an hour south of Chicago along I-57. This picturesque destination boasts an array of natural beauty, rich history and dynamic urban experiences for athletes, spectators and visitors alike.


Kankakee River State Park spans 4,000 acres and offers a pristine natural setting with over 10 miles of scenic trails, perfect for hiking, biking and family outings. Adventurers can enjoy kayaking and canoeing along the meandering river, while fishing enthusiasts will appreciate the opportunities provided by the Federal Clean Strem-registered river.


Families can indulge in fun at Perry Farm Park where they can interact with farm animals, explore the paved pathways and unleash their imagination at the Exploration Station, a children’s museum.


Kankakee County’s culinary scene is diverse, featuring fine dining options like Flight 102 Wine Bar, Rigo’s Place and BrickStone Brewery. Wine enthusiasts can savor delightful selections at Lush Vine and Grapes & Hops, while beer lovers can indulge in craft brews at Knack Brewing & Fermentations and BrickStone Brewing. For a unique culinary experience, don’t miss Locavore Farm’s Saturday night Dine-on-the-Land Dinner Experience, set amidst stunning pastoral views.


Kankakee County is an ideal destination for hosting sporting events. With versatile indoor and outdoor facilities and partners willing to innovate to accommodate athletic needs, the possibilities for events and tournaments are endless. The team looks forward to welcoming sports enthusiasts to Kankakee County and providing exceptional experiences for all.


Kentucky: Lexington

KYLexington, Kentucky’s new Central Bank Center is a major addition to the city’s sports venue inventory. It is now the crown jewel of downtown, with 100,000 square feet of exhibit hall space, a 24,330-square-foot ballroom and 16 meeting rooms. Basketball, pickleball, volleyball and archery are a few of the new sporting events that will be coming to the facility in 2024.


Made Hoops Basketball will be hosting 144 teams at their May 2024 tournament and The Academy Volleyball will be hosting two major volleyball tournaments in February and May 2024.


In the heart of downtown Lexington, within easy walking distance of over 1,200 hotel rooms, 75 restaurants, numerous theaters, shops and galleries and the Distillery District, as well as a wide variety of nightlife, the Central Bank Center offers small-town charm with big city amenities.


Additionally, Town Branch Commons is a park under construction next door and will provide a connection to 24 miles of trails and greenways through the city’s core. Lexington is extremely easy to reach whether driving or flying in; in fact, two-thirds of the country’s population is within a day’s drive of the city. “Look at Lexington” and check out the Central Bank Center for any upcoming event.


Maryland: Harford County

MDHarford County, Maryland continues to grow in the world of sports. Being the home of Ripken Stadium and one of the Ripken Experience locations, Harford County takes evolving the wide world of sports very seriously.


Now open is Copperplex, eight state-of-the-art turf soccer fields across 40 acres of land located in Edgewood. This complex comes complete with LED lighting, MUSCO Vision, free Wi-Fi, a concession stand and 650 onsite parking spots. It’s a soccer player’s dream.


In addition to Copperplex, Harford County is home to the brand-new Pickle Factory. Located in Churchville, Pickle Factory is the home of multiple indoor pickleball courts where it’s always a comfortable 72 degrees. Sign up for lessons, reserve a court to play with friends or join a league.


Harford County is also home to The Miracle League. Providing those with different abilities the opportunity to play baseball, The Miracle League has built a field in Bel Air designed to make it easy for those players to safely show their love of America’s pastime.


If sports are in your life’s itinerary, make it a point to visit Harford County, Maryland to see how this beautiful area makes sporting for all one of its top priorities.


Massachusetts: Central Massachusetts

MANestled in the heart of New England, Central Massachusetts stands as a haven for sports enthusiasts, extending a warm welcome and boasting top-notch sporting facilities. From baseball fields to basketball courts to serene lakes for water sports, Central Massachusetts provides the canvas for unforgettable competitions.


Discover Central Massachusetts, with a proven event-hosting track record, is the gateway to memorable sports experiences, ensuring easy access for participants and spectators. The Worcester Railers take center stage in the local sports scene during winter. Their commitment extends beyond the rink, evident in community-focused initiatives like Military Appreciation Night and Mental Health Awareness Night, fostering social causes and local recognition.


The DCU Center emerges as a hub for diverse indoor competitions during the winter months, providing a platform for athletes in dance, gymnastics and cheerleading to showcase their skills. For outdoor winter adventures, picturesque mountain settings like Ski Ward in Shrewsbury and Wachusett Mountain Ski Area in Princeton beckon skiing, snowboarding, tubing and snowshoeing enthusiasts to Central Massachusetts, a mecca for mountainside sports.


This sports landscape underscores the region’s dynamic embrace of various athletic pursuits, coupled with a community-centric approach that fosters a strong connection between sports and local celebrations.


Massachusetts: Greater Merrimack Valley

MASporting adventures await in Greater Merrimack Valley.


Come see why Greater Merrimack Valley is the perfect place to visit and to host a sporting event no matter the season. Indoor skating rinks, outdoor and indoor playing fields, as well as the training facilities found at the University of Lowell and the surrounding area, attract year-round activity.


Centrally located in New England, close to Boston with easy access to major airports and highways, the area offers the same services and amenities found in large cities without the added expense. With a vast array of accommodations to choose from, there is something to suit everyone’s unique needs. And when it’s time to relax, the activities are endless. Historic landmarks, National Parks, first class entertainment, endless dining options, varied shopping experiences, museums and galleries will keep visitors busy and ready to return for more.


To learn more about how the Greater Merrimack Valley Convention & Visitors Bureau can provide literature and assist event owners and rights holders with convention and event arrangements, such as pre-event planning, site visits, program assistance, publicity and promotion, guest programs and special events, call 978-770-2732 or visit


North Carolina: Hickory

NCExperience the future of event hosting as the Hickory Metro Convention Center’s expansion project nears completion. The cutting-edge facility spans 132,000 square feet, all on one level for seamless access. Excitement is high and the center is open for bookings starting in 2025.


Sports event organizers can prepare for a venue that exceeds expectations with 132,000 usable square feet, providing an expansive canvas for a myriad of activities. There are 110,000 square feet of interconnected flat-floor exhibit space with small meeting rooms and pre-function areas, creating an immersive environment for events of all scales. Additionally, a 35,000-square-foot exhibit hall has a 30-foot clear ceiling height, wood flooring and the versatility to accommodate eight volleyball courts, four basketball courts or 12 pickleball courts. This dynamic new space can host cheerleading, gymnastics and wrestling events.


Hickory is the perfect blend of fun, friendliness and lasting memories for any tournament or event. With an array of hotels, diverse restaurants, intriguing attractions and a plethora of activities, Hickory stands out as the go-to choice for every event planner. The city’s charm, convenient location and hospitality ensure that participants and attendees not only enjoy the event but also have an unforgettable experience beyond the competition.


From cozy accommodations to delightful dining options and captivating attractions, Hickory promises to add an extra layer of excitement to any tournament or event. Events are truly made memorable by choosing Hickory, an exceptional location that goes beyond expectations to create lasting impressions and a sense of community for all involved. For more information, visit


Pennsylvania: Lackawanna County

Photo courtesy of Lackawanna County Visitors Bureau/Access Aerial
Photo courtesy of Lackawanna County Visitors Bureau/Access Aerial

Lackawanna County is the ideal location for sports tournaments and events. Situated in Northeast Pennsylvania, the county is just two hours from New York City and Philadelphia. There are more than 67,000,000 people within 250 miles of Lackawanna County, offering an enormous group of potential participants and attendees for events.


Pricing in Lackawanna County is reasonable, allowing tournaments and events to be more profitable without sacrificing the quality of facilities and accommodations. Best of all, participants will be happy about events hosted in this area. As travel tournaments become the new family vacation, parents will be thrilled to find that family-friendly, affordable attractions are in abundance in Lackawanna County.


If Lackawanna County’s location is of interest, its facilities will seal the deal. Lackawanna County is home to 40+ baseball and softball fields, 90+ basketball courts, 40+ tennis/pickleball courts and the 10,000-seat home stadium of the Triple-A affiliate of the New York Yankees, as well as numerous venues for unique events that don’t fit the standard sports facility.


More than $16,000,000 over the past few years has been invested to develop additional amenities, fields and courts and flexible turf facilities to bolster any tournament or event. Lackawanna County really is the sweet spot for sports.


Tennessee: Memphis

TNWith dynamic new venues for youth and collegiate sports, plus NBA, USL, AAA USFL, the St. Jude Championship and IRONMAN action, Memphis is where champions of all ages and levels play.


Going into 2024, the recent debut of three new facilities has created more places to play in the city than ever before: from the fully transformed Renasant Convention Center located in downtown Memphis on the Mississippi River within walking distance of world-famous Beale Street, to the year-old Memphis Sports & Events Center at Liberty Park (home to Simmons Bank Liberty Stadium), to the brand-new Leftwich Tennis Center, the region’s largest tennis facility.


Downtown, the NBA Memphis Grizzlies call FedExForum home within earshot of the live blues, soul and rock ‘n’ roll that sound off every night on Beale Street. A recent $17 billion wave of development, in fact, has made Memphis a river city on the rise: In addition to its new convention center, sports venues and cutting-edge training facilities, visitors to the destination will notice major upgrades at Memphis International Airport and thousands of new hotel rooms across the city famous for live music, barbecue and iconic attractions including Elvis Presley’s Graceland and the National Civil Rights Museum.


Texas: El Paso

TXEl Paso welcomes all to enjoy year-round sports and excitement in the sunny southwest. With 300+ days of sunshine, El Paso is known for its warm temperatures and clear skies, the perfect weather combination for having fun outdoors.


From football fields and baseball diamonds to golf courses and swimming pools, El Paso’s selection of multi-use sports facilities has what event owners need. Whether that means a need for space to fit 200 spectators or crowds over 1,000, there’s a venue that will fit. Here are two:


Eastside Sports Complex

Sprawled across 42.2 acres, the Eastside Sports Complex offers seven sodded, irrigated competition flat fields and one championship-style field. Cheer on players while watching from underneath a shaded sitting area that accommodates up to 500 spectators.


Southwest University Park

Home field to the Triple-A El Paso Chihuahuas and the El Paso Locomotive FC soccer team, Southwest University Park is a state-of-the-art downtown ballpark. Celebrating its 10th anniversary, the $78 million facility makes El Paso one of 30 Triple-A cities in the nation and one of three in Texas to have a Triple-A team. The ballpark features 24 luxury suites, two event buildings, fixed seats, lawn seating and can accommodate up to 10,000 spectators.


After the games, athletes can make themselves at home at one of El Paso’s 10,300+ hotel rooms. Next, they can do some exploring and take a vintage streetcar ride through Downtown El Paso and visit a rejuvenated city center filled with excellent dining, shopping and family-friendly attractions.


Texas: Odessa

Photo courtesy of Odessa CVB
Photo courtesy of Odessa CVB

Event owners looking for a new home plate, field or court can look to Odessa, Texas. The city known for Friday Night Lights has plenty of opportunities for team sports, including soccer, basketball, flag and tackle football.


When it comes to softball and baseball, the city has 26 diamonds to offer, including 14 softball fields at the Basin Sports Complex located at the University of Texas of the Permian Basin (UTPB) park, an ideal location for athletes, families and fans, with a splash pad and multiple play areas. Odessa also has 40 soccer fields, four football fields, 16 tennis courts, 12 basketball courts, four disc golf courses and one great mountain bike park, all primed and ready for hosting competitive events. And coming soon is a new sports complex, ready to bring even more events to life in this vibrant and exciting area.


There’s just so much in Odessa, with a variety of restaurants and accommodations at all price points, shopping and multiple family-friendly venues. In their downtime, visitors of all ages can take in a rodeo, action sports (Odessa has go-kart and trampoline parks), paintball, historical attractions, local crafters and so much more that the only problem will be deciding what to do.


Choosing Odessa also means choosing a team that is deeply devoted to making each event a success, no matter where it plays out. More information is available at


Virginia: Virginia Beach

VAMaybe it’s the miles of sandy beaches, or the sparkling waters that call visitors to explore. Maybe it’s the welcoming sunshine or the year-round activities that offer endless possibilities for adventure. There’s simply an electrifying energy in Virginia Beach, one that compels visitors to move, do and be a part of the action. Bringing together its unique coastal spirit with state-of-the-art facilities, Virginia Beach is the ideal place to host an unforgettable sporting event.


From indoor to outdoor sports, and from friendly games to massive tournaments, Virginia Beach is a prime setting for competition. In addition to modern complexes ready to host all types of sports and capacities, Virginia Beach offers a vibrant, diverse atmosphere that athletes and event attendees won’t soon forget.


Virginia Beach may be famous for its gorgeous outdoor spaces, but the city’s newest sports facility makes it a pleasure to be indoors. Having opened in October 2020, the Virginia Beach Sports Center is a state-of-the-art facility that is ready to host a wide variety of indoor sports, including basketball, volleyball, indoor track & field and indoor field hockey. Its 285,000 square feet of convertible space can accommodate 12 basketball courts, 24 volleyball courts, nine field hockey courts and a 200-meter hydraulically banked track, and it can hold up to 5,000 spectators to watch the action.


For more information, contact Dani Timm, STS, Director of Virginia Beach Sports Tourism, at 757-385-6648 or


Wyoming: Casper

WYCentrally located in the heart of Wyoming, Casper has old West roots that intertwine with its urban flare to create an ideal destination for any event.


New venues are coming online all the time. The brand new WYO Sports Ranch will add an additional 10 basketball courts, 20 volleyball courts and a permanent indoor multi-use turf field. Sitting just 200 yards away, the Ford Wyoming Center has 28,000 square feet of floor space and an 8,000-seat capacity, ideal for any championship event.


An additional 300 hotel rooms are expected to open in the next three years, the Casper Ice Arena will add a second sheet of ice and the community will be welcoming the Casper Pickleball & Sports Complex (the largest in the state) in 2024 as well.


Casper has hosted events as varied as national rodeos, high school and college basketball, biathlon, volleyball, marching band, cheer, wrestling, track & field and so much more.


Outside of the arena, Casper offers athletes and spectators an authentic Wyoming experience. Visitors can explore hands-on exhibits at the National Historic Trails Interpretive Center or take a covered wagon ride and eat dinner cooked along the banks of the North Platte River to find out what life on the trail was like in the 1800s.


And there’s plenty more to Casper’s outdoor recreational opportunities, including more than 50 miles of trails to explore in the summer and roughly 25 miles of groomed trails to snowshoe, cross country ski or downhill ski in the winter. Learn more at SDM

About the Author