Emerging Sports Markets | Sports Destination Management

Emerging Sports Markets

Novel Places to Play and Stay
Dec 31, 2011 | By: Linda Driscoll-Dobel

As we ring in the new year, it’s a great time to expand horizons and explore new sports destinations. Some of the destinations presented here may not have previously been on your radar simply because they are in the dawn of making their mark as premier sports venues. Others offer a sport that may not be mainstream now, but with growing popularity will be ones you’ll be glad you discovered early.   

Branson, Missouri

After decades of popularity as a top family-friendly and leisure destination, Branson, Missouri, is now rolling out the red carpet for sports groups. The Branson Convention Center, managed by Hilton Hotels, is the crown jewel of Branson Landing. Located within view of Lake Taneycomo, the convention center’s unique design makes it an ideal location for a diverse range of sporting events. This modern, state-of-the-art venue offers 220,000 square feet of flexible space. The Branson RecPlex offers two full-size basketball courts, two full-size volleyball courts, four baseball/softball fields, and several multi-use soccer fields. 

The Branson area is also quickly becoming recognized as a destination for outdoor events, such as triathlons, fishing tournaments, golf tournaments and more. 

As Branson evolves to welcome more sporting events, visitors are wowed by its world-class live entertainment, award-winning theme park, abundant shopping and traditional charm. Sports-event attendees have found Branson to be friendly, casual, safe and affordable, making it a 'return-to' destination. 

Getting to Branson is easy with the new commercial airport (BKG). Then there are more than 200 lodging properties in the Branson Lakes Area with 22,000 guest rooms. Accommodations range from rustic to luxurious, trusted national brands or independent properties, in town, on the golf course and in lakefront settings. Learn more at www.explorebranson.com.


Campbell County, Wyoming—Towns of Gillette and Wright

The largest towns in northeastern Wyoming’s Campbell County are Gillette and Wright, and they are proving to be emerging leaders as a sports destination. The community's commitment to athletics is evident in its premier facilities—the most notable in the region—which provide opportunities for a wide range of events. 

The 227,847-square-foot CAM-PLEX facility, which sits on 1,100 acres with accommodations for as many as 9,000 people, is the largest venue in this community. It offers rodeo grounds with concessions, stables and stadium seating for 3,000, along with exhibit space, an ice arena with seating for 2,500, an RV campground with 1,730 campsites and more.  

In addition to CAM-PLEX, other sports venues in this community include an aquatic center that boasts a 10-lane, 50-meter, 50,000-square-foot Olympic-size pool. There are also golf courses as well as baseball and softball fields. 

Also of interest to sports enthusiasts are recreation centers complete with high school regulation basketball and volleyball courts, two swimming pools, miniature Devils Tower climbing wall, weight facilities, meeting space, and a field house with five indoor tennis courts (Sports Flex Mondo Surface), plus 200M, six-lane track (Super X Mondo Surface) facilities. 

In addition, Campbell County is proud to host the National High School Finals Rodeo, the world's largest rodeo. Visit http://visitgillette-wrightwyo.org/stay/groups-conventions/ to learn more.


Greenville, North Carolina

If you are unfamiliar with Greenville, North Carolina, make a point to put it on your discovery list. Not only is it recognized as one of the premier sports destinations across the state and Southeast region, but it has been designated “Sports Town USA” by Sports Illustrated magazine. As the home of East Carolina University and Pitt Community College, Greenville offers a number of excellent tournament venues, including East Carolina University’s addition of a new International Olympic Sports Complex. This multi-million-dollar project was completed in July and features a new state-of- the-art softball complex, track and field complex and soccer stadium. In addition, the Greenville Recreation & Parks System has several outstanding tournament venues that have served as host for statewide, regional and national tournaments, including Guy Smith Stadium, Elm Street Park and the Sara Law Softball Complex, which hosts more than 20 outside tournaments per year. 

Located 30 minutes east of I-95, Greenville is halfway between New York and Florida, in the Coastal Plain of North Carolina. Greenville is cited by several sources as one of the fastest-growing cities in the Southeastern United States and the largest in Eastern North Carolina. Air service is available directly into Greenville via US Airways or travelers can choose to fly into Raleigh, North Carolina, and make the short drive to Greenville. Learn more at www.visitgreenvillenc.com.


Kankakee County, Illinois

Kankakee County, Illinois, may be a small destination, but when it comes to sports the county can boast big. Located just an hour south of Chicago on Interstate 57, Kankakee County offers affordability to athletes and fans. The County is home to the Chicago Bears Summer Training Camp, OPC Power Boat National races, eight golf courses, the Kankakee River and excellent sports facilities. 

Diamond Point Park is a 60.5-acre park with four lighted softball fields and two baseball fields. PNC’s River Road Softball Complex features a wooded riverfront area, pavilion, press box and lights. 

Hidden Cove Sportsplex offers four multi-sport courts, indoor turf and a variety of entertainment from batting cages to go-karts. Sports event planners and parents appreciate Hidden Cove’s versatility and location. The Sportsplex is located a half mile off of Interstate 57 and within close walking distance to four hotels, Northfield Square Mall, a cinema and multiple restaurants. 

Ice Valley Centre offers an NHL ice rink, Breakaway Cafe Concessions and four private event rooms. The arena has hosted hockey games for Purdue University. 

For more information, tours and booking assistance, contact the Kankakee County Convention & Visitors Bureau at www.VisitKankakeeCounty.com.


Peachtree City, Georgia

Peachtree City, Georgia, is an award-winning, master-planned community located 26 miles south of Atlanta. Imbued with small town charm yet equipped with big city amenities, Peachtree City is in a league of its own when it comes to sporting events and tournaments. Every year, the city proudly hosts national and regional races and tournaments for a variety of sports. Those sports include soccer, baseball, softball, lacrosse and BMX. Peachtree City's 90 miles of multi-use recreational paths wind throughout the city and also serve well not only for competitive races but also as golf cart paths used for recreation and pleasure. 

Peachtree City offers the opportunity for visitors to “play like a pro” on any of its three Championship golf courses. Likewise, tennis enthusiasts can serve up a game or two at Peachtree City's award-winning tennis complex. If it's swimming that’s of interest, visitors can check out the indoor aquatics center, or for outdoor fun, a visit to Lake Peachtree or Lake Kedron is a good choice.   

The motto of the Peachtree Convention & Visitors Bureau is “Plan to Stay. Plan to Play.” Those who plan to do that can choose from any of Peachtree City’s five premier hotels or two award-winning conference centers. To learn more, visit www.visitpeachtreecity.com.


San Angelo, Texas

San Angelo, Texas, is the place to know when you want to expand your horizons and explore the sport of rodeo. One of the top five rodeos in the nation—based on total purse and celebrating its 80th year of existence—the San Angelo Rodeo brings in more than 1,000 top cowboys and cowgirls in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association every year. The people of San Angelo are no strangers to rodeo; in fact, they are deeply rooted in the sport. The town has been coined a 'Cowboy Town,' not because of two weeks dedicated to cowboys and cowgirls in February, but because year-round, that is what the people of San Angelo do. Unique to 2012 is the addition of a 10th performance “Shoot Out” with invitational contestants in the five events of bareback riding, barrel racing, bull riding, saddle bronc riding and calf roping. This new, action-packed event will take place as the ending performance on the night of February 25th at 7 p.m. and the title sponsor is Cinch Clothing. Winners vie for their share of $10,000 in prize money in each event. Champions from the PRCA Rodeo and 10th performance “Shoot Out” will earn invitations to compete in the rodeo events in Houston in March of 2012. To learn more about this great destination, visit www.sanangelo.org


Photo courtesy of John Cheng

Snohomish County, Washington  

Located in the picturesque Pacific Northwest, Snohomish County, Washington, offers arenas, fields, trails and water sites that can contribute to a winning event. Bordered on the west by Puget Sound and the east by the Cascade Mountains, the choice to either swim or ski is wide open. 

Snohomish County's sports venues range from snow and ice to lakes and rivers to playfields and sports courts. Its diverse sites have made it attractive to a wide variety of sporting events like Skate America, Ironman 70.3 Triathlon, NSA Western World Series Fastpitch, and US Rowing Northwest Masters Regional.

 Venues include Comcast Arena in Everett, a 10,000-seat facility with two NHL sheets that hosts a variety of events including basketball, figure skating, gymnastics and volleyball. Also, Lynnwood Convention Center, with its 34,000 square feet can accommodate cheer, dance, gymnastics and martial arts. In addition, Evergreen Events Center, encompassing 33,000 square feet, is perfect for trade shows, sporting and entertainment events. 

Snohomish County Sports Commission provides a variety of services for sports event planners, including making connections with funding opportunities, providing event organization, and offering help with hotel accommodations and the appropriate venue to make an event a success. Learn more from the Snohomish County Sports Commission by e-mailing tammy@snohomish.org.


Stockton, California

Stockton, California, is home to the Stockton Arena, which opened in 2005 and is located on the downtown waterfront adjacent to a new marina and hotel. While the arena has been home to many team sports including basketball, indoor soccer and hockey, the 10,000-seat facility is emerging as a great location for dance, cheer, gymnastics and twirling events. 

The United States Twirling Association (USTA) recently announced the Stockton Arena as the location for the 2012 US Trials and 2014 US Nationals for baton twirling. This central location was not only an affordable option, but gave USTA an opportunity to be back in California after a stretch of nearly 15 years since their last west coast visit. 

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, providing the key financial stability to ensure success. The SCVB staff will walk meeting planners through the process for any size event, from major event bid fees to small event sponsorship. For more information, contact the SCVB at 877-778-6258 or wes@visitstockton.org.  The Sports Facilities Guide is located at StocktonSports.org.


Toronto, Canada

For many sports event planners, 2012 may be the year to explore venues outside of the U.S., especially Canada. Toronto is Canada’s largest metropolitan area and its financial, cultural and tourism hub. The same is true for Toronto sports. Toronto offers more than 200 venues and facilities, and hosts a seemingly endless variety of international sports, both amateur and professional, which has helped Toronto earn its

reputation as a world-class sports destination, especially as it ramps up to host the 2015 Pan/Parapan American Games. 

An alluring facet of Toronto as a sports destination is that fact that it is an international travel hub. As such, it is committed to ensuring that athletes, event organizers, officials, coaches and participants arrive in Toronto comfortably and efficiently by providing several direct travel options to North America, from virtually anywhere in the world. 

Sports event organizers, participants and fans who make the trip to Toronto will appreciate that after the event has concluded, there is plenty to do in the immediate area. Those who stay in Toronto a little longer will be able to enjoy the city’s great attractions, museums, art galleries, festivals, shopping, night life, restaurants and cafes. To learn more, visit www.seetorontonow.com/Sports-Tourism.


About the Author