When making your way to the Midwestern United States, you should expect a lot more than just snow and ice.
This area is comprised of a whopping 12 states that include: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota and Wisconsin. With all that territory to cover, there's no wonder that approximately 258 sports venues are available to choose from with ample hospitality resources to boot.
Over 33 professional sports teams call the Midwest home. They include nine NFL teams; eight Major League Baseball teams; seven NBA teams; five NHL teams and four annual NASCAR events. The Midwest also boasts the Big Twelve, Big Ten and Missouri Valley Football Conferences to name a few.
The Midwest's central location is sure to have a hand in why this area is so popular but proximity isn't all there is to offer. Several big hitters come to mind when considering the Midwest as a destination: the Great Lakes, the auto industry and, of course, the weather.
"In the Midwest, people are passionate about the Midwest," said Mike Guswiler, executive director of the West Michigan Sports Commission. "It's always about the four seasons and the Great Lakes. What those two offer to an event planner is a variety of sports that continually changes, that's what makes it special about being a Midwestern state."
Universities and More
With world-class facilities peppered throughout the region, there are ample choices with any Midwestern destination.
"You don't have to be scared of planning a sporting event in the winter," said Susan Galloway, marketing and communications director of the Peoria Convention and Visitors Bureau. "We have diverse facilities and we embrace a variety of sports."
The NJCAA Women's Basketball Division II National Championships was held in March at Illinois Central College, and The Grand National TT Motorcycle Races will take place in August with over 16,000 in attendance and an economic impact of $1.3 million for the community. Additionally, Peoria will host the 5th Annual State Farm Tournament of Champions with 23 high school basketball teams participating in three different tournaments in November.
"We have very diverse facilities," said Galloway. "Being such a cross culture of America we truly embrace a variety of sports. They also spill into hobby sports and some of them are truly becoming tournaments in their own rights and growing."
Universities ranging in size are scattered throughout the Midwest and offer additional venues.
Pittsburg State University is dominant in NCAA Division II with 635 victories and call Bradenburg Field/Carnie Smith Stadium home. "It's a prototypical sports destination," said Craig Hull, director of the Crawford County Convention & Visitors Bureau. "The football stadium is considered the crowned jewel of the community. We have a second stadium that has field turf and event planners realize we could have a big event utilizing both fields; one for competition and the other for practice."
Pittsburg is also home to the 2010 Shrine Bowland will host the Citizen Bank Bowl in December.
"You come to Pittsburg, Kansas, with only 60 teams and it's a big event," continued Hull. "The media supports it and the sponsors and community really support the event."
With 23 statewide, regional or national events slated for 2010 Crawford County hopes to continue to grow. "Our size market is the growing market," explained Hull. "This area is a hotbed for Bocce Ball and we are trying to host the Kansas State Bocce Championships. You have to get creative with events but when you have the local support, you go for it."
West Michigan truly embraces the weather. "Luge is big for us," said Guswiler. "We are fortunate, the Muskegon Winter Sports Park has one of only a few luge runs in North America and that helps bring notoriety to that region."
The Park also recently added a year 'round luge run, the first in North America and only the second in the world. The run allows for luge competitions year round as well as recreational opportunities for people with disabilities.
Similarly, down the road in Manhattan, Kansas, the community is proud of their local university in Kansas State University but continue to look for additional opportunities.
"We have an awful lot of sporting venues and events outside of KSU," said Dennis Toll, tourism sales manager of the Manhattan Convention & Visitors Bureau. "We have a lot of excellent sports programs for youth bringing their own events to town. Youth sports works especially well because parents that are K-State alumni enjoy coming back."
Known as the 'Little Apple,' Manhattan hosted the Little Apple Kick Off Classic XIV at Anneberg Park with 80 soccer teams participating and 1200 competitors and families in attendance in August.
That's not to say that KSU doesn't bring its fair share of events to the area. The Big 12 Outdoor Track and Field Championships will be held at R.V. Christian Track Complex for the first time since 1985 in 2012. The facility recently underwent $1.4 million in renovations and boasts new locker rooms with seating for 3,000.
With such a massive number of venues and destinations to choose from within the 12 states, it can be tough to decipher which destination is the right one for your event.
There are many resources in regional and state run sports commissions and their partnerships with CVB's.
"It's like anything," said Guswiler. "It's working with our local community and identifying our strengths and what groups can we work with and reach out to the national groups."
Sports Indiana holds the bragging rights in hosting more than 400 Collegiate and Olympic National and International Championships as well as being home to the NCAA, USA Gymnastics, USA Track & Field and USA Diving to name a few.
Some other notable resources for the Midwest include:
St. Louis Sports Commission - www.stlouissports.org.
Champaign County Sports Commission - www.champaigncountysports.org.
Des Moines Area Sports Commission - www.seedesmoines.com/sports.
Kansas City Sports Commission - www.sportkc.org.
Wichita Sports Commission - www.wichitasports.com.
West Michigan Sports Commission - www.westmichigansportscommission.com.
Rochester Amateur Sports Commission - www.rochsports.org.
Minnesota Amateur Sports Commission - www.minnesotasports.org.
Missouri Sports Commission - www.springfieldmo.org/sportscommission/.
Omaha Sports Commission– www.omahasports.org.
Nebraska Sports Council - www.nebraskasportscouncil.com.
Greater Columbus Sports Commission - www.columbussports.org.
Greater Cleveland Sports Commission - www.clevelandsports.org.
Osh Kosh & Winnebago County Sports Commission - www.sportswisconsin.com.
The National Association of Sports Commissions is headquartered in Cincinnati, Ohio, and provides not only resources but also opportunities.
"We had lots of one on one time last spring at the NASC Trade Show," said Hull. "We saw an immediate response just from face to face time and received five RFP's just from that event."
The number of events isn't the only growth in the Midwest. Venues are being improved, hotels are going up and multi-use complexes are being developed.
"The number one thing for us is to maintain what we have," said Hull. "Jaycee Ballpark for example was an old minor league park and we've added $300,000 of field turf and $100,000 in lights."
In Peoria, Avanti's Dome is a new multi-use complex with over 76,000 square feet and 33 acres of outdoor fields with capabilities to host football and baseball events.
Manhattan just opened a new pool complex in the City Park Pool with a brand new 50 meter competitive pool as well as several hotels to include Parkwood Inn and Suites, Comfort Suites and breaking ground on the Hilton Garden Inn & Convention Center.
The West Michigan Sports Commission remains busy with new development. "We have plans to develop 12 fields for both baseball and softball complex," said Guswiler. "We are looking into how we can make that available to all athletes and include a Miracle League field into the facility for kids with disabilities."
With all of the existing facilities, ample resources and upcoming improvements, the Midwest truly is more than just snow and ice.