Repetition has long been known to be beneficial to athletes in practice sessions. When it comes to the location of sports events, though, for athletes and fans alike, repeatedly visiting the same venue can sap that magical excitement of new experiences when it’s time for the team to hit the road.
So wouldn’t it be great to not only bring the event to a different location, but to bring it to one that is new and fresh to the sports destination market?
Sure, the tried and true may seem like the most failsafe way to go, and those destinations most certainly should not be discarded altogether, but some dynamic new sports destinations have emerged over the last couple of years, and they have put grand effort into being able to offer the superb experience that leads to events coming off without a hitch.
As you’ll see, we have discovered a number of locations that have emerged as great sports destinations for all types of sports, including those for physically challenged athletes. It’s a new year. You owe it to yourself to explore.
Annapolis and the Chesapeake Bay, Maryland
It takes a solid team to bring sport events to a destination, and the Annapolis and the Chesapeake Bay area’s team consists of strong local and state-wide partnerships with the Annapolis & Anne Arundel County Conference and Visitors Bureau (AAACCVB), Maryland Office of Sports Marketing, County and City Recreation & Parks Departments, private facilities and the Naval Academy Athletic Association.
Centrally located with easy mobility and sport-friendly accommodations, Annapolis and the Chesapeake Bay area’s 11 turf fields, 34,000-seat Naval Academy stadium, 100+ baseball/softball fields and 200+ bowling lanes just begin to touch on Annapolis and the Chesapeake Bay sport venues. Some say facilities are the number-one criteria for winning a sporting event, but location is gaining ground as a close second. Sports event attendees have diverse interests that go beyond the playing field. Striking a balance between on-field competition and off-field activities allows Annapolis and the Chesapeake Bay area to appeal to sports organizers.
To complete a winning team, the Annapolis & Anne Arundel County Conference and Visitors Bureau offers the sports expertise of its sports manager who boasts not only experience as a collegiate athlete, but has sports event management experience and local knowledge that combine to make a powerful addition to any sporting event. To learn more, visit www.visitannapolis.org.
Branson Lakes, Missouri
Branson Lakes, Missouri, is an emerging sports destination that allows athletes to enjoy the outdoors, take a dip, rent a boat, Jet Ski or kayak on one of three mountain lakes. Those who travel to Branson can bass fish on Table Rock Lake, trout fish on Lake Taneycomo or journey through the canyon floor past towering bluffs and waterfalls while mingling with herds of American bison, elk, white tail deer and Texas Longhorns at Dogwood Canyon.
Other athletes might prefer to hit the trails for a hike, geocache, mountain bike, backpack, horseback ride or perhaps adventure to explore one of Missouri’s many caves.
For true downtime, sports event participants can play at White Water or Silver Dollar City theme parks, take a Ride the Ducks tour, soar on one of three new ziplines or race on the new Heavy Metal High Rise (over four stories) at the Track Family Fun Parks. Branson even allows visitors to golf one of 12 championship courses. For the shoppers, there are 300+ retail stores between Branson’s historic downtown, the strip, three outlet malls and the new Branson Landing.
Branson Lakes is friendly, casual, safe and affordable. To learn more, visit ExploreBransonSports.com.
Cape Girardeau, Missouri
Conveniently located in the heartland of the nation along the western banks of the mighty Mississippi River is Cape Girardeau, Missouri, the largest community between St. Louis (110 miles north) and Memphis (170 miles south).
Cape Girardeau serves as a multi-state, regional hub for recreation, entertainment, healthcare, dining, shopping and special events. A wide array of outstanding sports facilities, lively entertainment and attractions, 500+ stores, 900+ hotel and bed and breakfast rooms, and more than 120 delicious restaurants all combine to make Cape Girardeau a premier sports event destination.
Cape Girardeau offers wonderful opportunities for leisure activities before, after and between organized sporting events. Its spectacular natural vistas, wide variety of shopping experiences, sight-seeing opportunities, historic past, family-friendly attractions and more will satisfy the interests of each member of the group.
Whatever the need, the Cape Girardeau Convention and Visitors Bureau team – along with hundreds of its hospitality partners – is standing by, ready to make every sports event held in Cape Girardeau a true success. The goal is to make an initial visit the first of many to come. To learn more, visit www.visitcape.com.
Conway, Arkansas, is a city with a lot going for it. Just 30 minutes from Little Rock, filled with beautiful outdoor spaces and recreation, a vibrant downtown and a population of active young families, Conway is one of the fastest-growing cities in Arkansas. Conway also recently became an award-winning sports event destination.
Infused with an active spirit and a growing young population, over the years Conway built a variety of parks and recreation centers, and its park system flourished. But recently, city leaders took a look around and made a crucial discovery: the only thing preventing Conway from being one of America’s best sports destinations was a lack of places to play.
In 2010, Conway unveiled City of Colleges Park, a five-field girls’ softball complex that immediately garnered attention, events and awards. The Arkansas Recreation and Parks Association (ARPA) named City of Colleges Park a 2010 Facility of the Year.
In 2011, Conway made another big move with Conway Station Park, a baseball/softball facility that offers nine fields, shaded stands, modern fencing and a large main building/concession area. Once again ARPA took notice, naming Conway Station Park a 2011 Facility of the Year. To learn more, visit www.conwayark.com.
Flint and Genesee County, Michigan
Flint and Genesee County, Michigan, is home of 2012 gold medalist boxer Claressa Shields, 2011 Stanley Cup winner, Tim Thomas (Boston Bruins) and 2009 Heisman Trophy winner, Mark Ingram. Flint and Genesee County takes sports seriously and despite the snow, plays outdoor sports indoors, so athletes can remain active all year long.
Indoor venues include Perani Arena and Event Center, which encompasses over 29,000 square feet, is capable of seating 6,000+, and can accommodate ice hockey, figure skating, basketball, martial arts, gymnastics, soccer and wrestling. Additional indoor complexes include Iceland Arena, Genesee Fieldhouse and Premier Sports.
Centrally located at the crossroads of I-75, US-23 and I-69, Flint is easily accessible from anywhere in the state. Bishop International Airport, voted one of the most affordable airports in the country, is just minutes from family-friendly hotels, sports facilities and local attractions. Popular downtime options include a visit to historical Crossroads Village & Huckleberry Railroad or Flint Cultural Center, or taking a factory tour.
The Flint-Genesee Regional CVB provides a variety of support services for sports event planners, including assistance with venue selection, hotel accommodations, referrals to businesses, attraction information and welcome bags for players. To learn more, visit www.flintandgenesee.org.
Greenville, South Carolina
There are a lot of reasons Greenville, South Carolina, has earned its way onto short lists for regional, national and international events of almost every kind – and reasons this gem of a southeastern city is quickly becoming known as “Championshipville.” From an incredible collection of facilities, sports complexes and natural venues to a mild four-season climate, excellent accessibility and unmatched value, greater Greenville promises something for everyone. And Greenville delivers big-time.
Just look at a few events greater Greenville has hosted recently: the 2012 USA Cycling Professional Road Championships; the 2012-2013 Men’s Collegiate Lacrosse Association National Championships, the 2012 US Youth Soccer Region III Championships, the 2012 Southern Conference Baseball Championship, the 2011 and 2012 Walmart FLW Bass Tournament, and coming in 2014, the UCI Para-Cycling Road World Championships.
From softball, martial arts and archery to lacrosse, wrestling, volleyball, and more, Greenville is ideal. And with a diverse collection of accommodations, restaurants, shops and attractions, and a downtown that Forbes magazine calls “One of America’s Ten Best” - Greenville can elevate your sporting event to new heights. To learn more, visit www.GreenvilleCVB.com.
Nestled in beautiful mountains of Western Montana, surrounded by five wilderness areas and at the confluence of three rivers, Missoula, Montana, is a great location for any sporting event. From the US Freestyle Kayaking Championships to US Pro Mountain Bike Racing and everything in between, Missoula has paramount natural resources to host sports events. Missoula is also proud to offer state-of-the-art sporting facilities fit for competitions of all levels. Whether it is baseball or basketball, hockey or martial arts, this location has a venue to fit the need.
Events held in Missoula are sure to provide an exceptional experience. The Destination Missoula staff works closely with each event to connect planners to excellent resources, making sure the event is a success. Destination Missoula becomes a partner in each event with the goal of producing events that are more successful in Missoula than in any other city. Its wide array of services and assistance encompass grant funding opportunities, marketing, facility and site selection, public relations and hotel accommodations. For more information, visit www.PlayMissoula.org.
Pittsburg, Kansas is a small town (population: 20,233) in southeastern Kansas, in an area known as the Four-States, where Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma and Arkansas come together. Pittsburg is also the home of Pittsburg State University, which features the most successful NCAA Division II college football team in history. The success of Pittsburg State gives Pittsburg many of the amenities and facilities of a larger community, despite its smaller population base. Pittsburg’s small size offers a taste of hospitality that you can’t find in bigger cities. Pittsburg is also centrally located within the Midwest, less than two hours from Kansas City, less than three hours from Wichita and Tulsa, only five hours from St. Louis and six hours from Dallas. With the ability to host a variety of sports events, Pittsburg has excellent opportunities for adults and youth alike. With its spectacular facilities, convenient location and affordability, Pittsburg and Crawford County, Kansas “have sports covered,” as their motto declares. To learn more, go to visitcrawfordcounty.com.
Rogers, Arkansas, is home base when it comes to a place to plan to hold sporting events, tournaments and conventions. With myriad state-of-the-art sporting venues — from tennis to softball to soccer, plus great food, comfortable lodging and lots to do — Rogers is a natural choice for athletes.
Rogers and the entire Northwest Arkansas region are all about sports — which means between games, there is plenty for the sports fan to see and do. Rogers is just minutes from picturesque Beaver Lake, one of the top fishing lakes in the nation. Rogers is also home to Arkansas’ only Cabela’s store and just a few miles from the campus of the nationally competitive University of Arkansas Razorbacks and the AA affiliate of the Kansas City Royals, the Northwest Arkansas Naturals.
The newest sports park in Rogers (opened January 2013) sports six championship-level softball/baseball fields. The new water park opens May 2013. To learn more, visit www.playinrogers.com.
Centrally located in Northern California’s Central Valley, Stockton is continuing its reputation as an affordable, convenient and friendly sports destination.
Host to regional, state and national sporting events, Stockton boasts a modern ballpark and arena overlooking its downtown waterfront. The Stockton Ballpark (home to the Single A Oakland A’s affiliate Stockton Ports) will be the home of the West Coast Conference Baseball Championship for 2013 as well as numerous travel ball and college games.
The Stockton Arena (home to the ECHL Stockton Thunder) will host the 2014 U.S. National Baton Twirling Championships. It is home to wrestling, basketball and rodeos events as well. In addition, Stockton is home to the University of the Pacific, which offers a wide variety of quality athletic facilities and plays host to games and tournaments year round.
The Stockton Convention and Visitors Bureau strives to make California an affordable destination for any size or type of event. The Bureau offers grants to sporting events, giving the event the financial stability to ensure success. Its friendly staff walks through the process with the planner for any size of event, from major event bid fees to small event sponsorship. To learn more, visit www.StocktonSports.org.
Each year millions of visitors come to Somerset, Kentucky, from across the U.S. to enjoy beautiful Lake Cumberland, located within 300 miles of major cities in 11 states.
In March 2013, Somerset will host over 300 anglers, their families and media for the Crappie USA Fishing Tournament. In addition, already scheduled is the Cabela’s Crappie USA Classic Tournament for Fall 2014. Two full-service marinas and a six-lane state park boat ramp offer logistic support for the tournaments and to millions of annual vacationers.
Beyond hosting national sport fishing tournaments, the Somerset-Pulaski County Convention and Visitors Bureau sponsors various winter, spring, summer and fall events. For example, Somerset recently sponsored the 2012 Lake Cumberland Holiday Hoops Classic featuring 16 high school teams from across Kentucky.
Coming in July 2013 is the Ohio Valley Baseball/Cal Ripken Tournament, the 20th-annual Master Musicians Festival and the 13th-annual Somernites Classic Car Show & Cruise (April-October).
With more than 1,100 rooms, the county has ample lodging. And there’s plenty to see and do during off hours. For instance, SomerSplash Water Park is 20 acres of family fun including slides and a giant wave pool. Visitors can also tour local wineries, take in a round of golf at one of five 18-hole courses or unwind at a growing number of local restaurants. To learn more, visit www.Lakecumberlandtourism.com.
Virginia Beach, Virginia
As a sports destination, Virginia Beach can be considered an “east coast Mecca.” The locale has become popular with sports enthusiasts of all types, including those requiring special assistance. Offering venues, programs and amenities that rival most metropolitan areas, Virginia Beach allows every athlete to compete like a champion.
Home to the first LEED® Gold–Certified Convention Center in the country, the Virginia Beach Convention Center boasts more than 500,000 square feet of space and offers unique configurations for athletes of every game. The center offers multiple handicap parking spaces, easy ground-level access into the facility, roomy elevators and restrooms with handicap accessibility throughout the building.
Virginia Beach also is the site of the first 100-percent-handicap-accessible oceanfront playground in America — JT’s Grommet Island Beach Park & Playground for Every“BODY”. Located on Virginia Beach’s famous shoreline, it features soft play surfaces, a Braille wall, interactive sensory panels and wheelchair-accessible play structures.
In addition, throughout the year multiple programs and events for individuals with special needs take place within the city. The Wave Warriors Surf Camp is dedicated to providing a fun and therapeutic weekend getaway for injured service members and their families while Surfers Healing focuses on the power of the ocean to reach children with autism. To learn more, visit www.vbsports.com.