The 'Big Four' are the anchors in United States sports: football, baseball, basketball and hockey. Nobody knows that better than the Northeast region.
With legendary teams and rivalries in all four sports it's no wonder that this region is a hotbed for the traditional. For teams that call the Northeast home, there are over 110 championship titles within the NFL, NBA, NHL & Major League Baseball.
Eleven states make up this region: Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Vermont.
Traditional sports are not the only ones that have made their mark. NASCAR may have been born in the South but its success is quickly moving north. Each year, Dover International Speedway in Delaware and Pocono Raceway in Pennsylvania host two NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and New Hampshire Motor Speedway hosts one Sprint Cup event.
Fields and Arenas
Alongside their major league siblings are a multitude of minor league teams bringing superior athletic facilities and fields for tournaments in Northeast mid-markets.
The Hershey-Harrisburg area in Pennsylvania was recently dubbed the 'Nations Top Minor League Market.' As home to the AHL Hershey Bears; the AA affiliate of the Washington Nationals, Harrisburg Senators; and the City Islanders of the United Soccer League's Second Division this title simply makes sense.
"We are a minor league hotbed," said Gregg Cook, sports marketing manager of the Hershey/Harrisburg Regional Visitors Bureau. "We have the success of those franchises from a business standpoint and respectability in the local market. But the fan and corporate support are also there and the facilities where they play are gorgeous."
He's referring to the Giant Center and Metro Bank Park as well as several other facilities in the immediate area.
The 30th Annual Keystone Games featuring over 30 sporting events and roughly 7,000 athletes renewed their commitment to Hershey-Harrisburg, Pennsylvania until 2013.
Venues throughout the region will be utilized including the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex & Expo Center with 78,000 square feet of sports flooring allowing tournaments, a minimum of 15 basketball and 20 volleyball courts.
"It's a very versatile facility," said Cook. "They recently have undergone an expansion and are in stage two expected to be completed by January."
Rockville, Maryland, is fortunate enough to share a similar asset.
"Our crowned jewel is the Maryland Soccerplex and Discovery Sports Center," said Kelly Groff, executive director of the Conference & Visitors Bureau of Montgomery County. "It's our largest premier recreation facility in the region with 21 soccer fields, 8 basketball or volleyball courts and a championship stadium for 3,500 spectators."
In 2010, Discovery Sports Center hosted 16 tournaments from March until mid-November. The Center is also home to the women's professional soccer team, Washington Freedom.
The Pyle Center in Sussex County, Delaware, hosted the Senior League World Series of Softball in August resulting in approximately 5,500 room nights over seven days. Delaware University will host the American College Hockey Association Men's Division 1 National Championship in March.
According to Matthew Sparks, executive director of the Delaware Sports Commission, the excellent venues weren't the only deciding factors in securing the events. "Our ideal location and easy access is an advantage," he explained. "We are 175 miles from Washington, DC, and New York. Philadelphia is about 30 miles from the northern part of the state."
According to their website, there are over 180 sports facilities within Delaware and over 14,000 hotel rooms. Not bad for a state that measures 2,044 square miles.
More Than Fields and Arenas
But that's not to say that this region doesn't have more to offer.
Rockville, Md., is making preparations for a notable event. The 2011 U.S. Open is being held at the Congressional Country Club in Bethesda June 13-19, 2011. "They haven't been in the area since 1997," said Groff. "The players just love the course and the club itself was the draw for the location. Golf is making a big impact in the area."
Worcester County, Md., has 15 championship golf courses. "Golf is very popular here," said Lisa Challenger, director of Worcester County Tourism. "It has a very coastal feel and our winters don't get particularly cold. You can play golf almost year-round and we have some spectacular courses along the coast."
That's not the only spectacular thing along the coast. Worcester County also hosts the largest Billfish tournament in the world with the White Marlin Open. The tournament draws up to 300 boats and 3,000 anglers from all over the country.
"Fishermen come from up and down the coast with huge fishing yachts," said Challenger. "It's just spectacular and has become a major spectator event with a huge crowd waiting to see what these fish are going to weigh."
Approximately 5,000 visitors attended the 2009 Open from outside of the state and the 36th annual event resulted in $8.6 million in direct economic impact for the area.
Both Maryland and Delaware are historic hotbeds for lacrosse. "We are looking to take advantage of that," said Sparks. "We hold a premier lacrosse camp here and are experiencing explosive growth with (lacrosse) groups."
Northside Park in Ocean City and Northern Worcester Athletic Fields act as home to lacrosse tournaments in Maryland.
Off The Fields
Sports tournaments are continuing despite the economy. Families are combining vacations with events. Consequently, event planners are always looking for destinations with attractions.
With its close proximity to Ocean City, Md., Worcester County not only attracts great sporting events, but can provide an ideal vacation for athletes and their families.
"The whole area has really been developed," said Challenger. "We aren't just a summer resort destination anymore. Ocean City is a big deal and there are thousands of hotel rooms which can accommodate any size tournament," she continued.
Up the road in Hershey-Harrisburg, the number of tourists coming to the area for Hershey Park alone provide an excellent source of entertainment for sports events.
"The hook of Hershey is that people can come participate in an event," said Cook. "But they can also make a great vacation out of it. When you have an internationally known destination it makes it that much better."
It's a no brainer when choosing Montgomery County for an event, its proximity to the nations' capital and accessibility to three major airports make this area a smart choice.
"Being close to the nations' capital is a huge draw for people," said Gross. "There are 9,400 hotel rooms in the county and almost 1,000 restaurants in the area and we also have hundreds of miles of trails for hiking and biking and we offer indoor/outdoor tennis, baseball field and indoor ice rinks, so the inventory we have here is pretty large."
Up the road is a shopper's paradise. "Delaware is home to tax free shopping," said Sparks. "We have some outlets that are second to none and some great retail stores. We have upgraded gaming and coastal attractions and some beautiful beaches. When they come for the event, they can spend some additional time at the beach."
When choosing a destination for an event, the partnership is a key factor for any planner. There are ample resources available throughout the Northeast Region. Some state commissions include the Delaware Sports Commission; Team Maryland; Massachusetts Sports Partnership and the New York City Sports Commission as well as individual Convention and Visitors Bureaus.
"We offer sponsorship solutions, marketing and promotional support and government relationship assistance," explained Sparks. "It's important for the rights holder to know that the local community is behind the events coming to town and that's a major part of it. So we are involved from planning to execution. We provide that conduit and educate the parties to make a better event overall."
With support like that, any event in the Northeast is sure to be successful.