Small Market Leaders | Sports Destination Management

Small Market Leaders

Powerhouse Sports Destinations in Smaller Markets
Dec 31, 2010 | By: Linda Driscoll-Dobel

Some locations instantly bring to mind a specific sport: The Bronx and Baltimore ring out baseball; Augusta and St. Andrews whisper golf; Flushing and Wimbledon flash to the pummel and plunk of tennis balls. But those places, metaphorically speaking, are for "the big leagues."

Smaller sports markets have their powerhouse locations, as well. What they lack is the widespread name recognition enjoyed by the larger markets. To remedy that, Sports Destination Management magazine swept away the ground cover hiding some of theses gems in the small sports market community. From that investigation, we compiled the following small market sports destinations to consider putting on your short list for future events.

Amarillo, Texas
Facilities, location and value help make Amarillo, Texas, a sports small market leader. Amarillo has hosted national competitions in a wide variety of sports -- basketball, wrestling, tumbling, softball, baseball and tennis. Visiting teams and individuals can use top-flight facilities, from the area school districts to the local parks and recreation department and the Amarillo Civic Center. The Center covers more than 340,000 square feet. In addition, Amarillo National Center is the largest facility in Amarillo for equine and livestock events, with 5,000 permanent seats, a multi-purpose dirt floor and all the special facilities necessary to handle horses and livestock.

All teams and competitors seek good value and Amarillo offers that in a wide variety of room brands, from budget to full-service accommodations. Value extends to local restaurants, entertainment, shopping, and attractions, giving the team a great chance to explore a little off the field or court.

Amarillo is a great drive destination for sports, located in the middle of major competition markets such as Dallas/Fort Worth, Oklahoma City, Albuquerque and Denver. If driving isn't practical, a non-stop flight to the Rick Husband Amarillo International Airport from Houston, D/FW, Dallas Love Field, Denver and Memphis is available. There are also great connections from all those hubs, too. New airport terminal renovations will be complete in mid-2011.

Branson, Missouri
After decades of popularity as a top family-friendly, leisure destination, Branson, Missouri, is now rolling out the red carpet for sport 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 (triathlons, fishing tournaments, golf tournaments and more).

As Branson evolves to welcome more sporting events, visitors are wowed by the 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). There are daily flights on AirTran and recently announced non-stop, low-cost service on Frontier Airlines and Branson AirExpress. 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.

Colorado Springs
Colorado Springs, Colorado, located at the base of Pikes Peak, earns high marks as a destination to hold a competition or sports event. This southern Colorado city is the second largest in the state, just south of Denver. The area offers 300 days of sunshine, easy access to the outdoors, over 70 venues for a wide-range of sports and an optimum 6,035feet of high-altitude training. The city manages seven regional parks including The Memorial Park Skateboard Park which features 40,000 square feet of obstacles, bowls and pools that attract inline skaters, skateboarders and BMX bikers from across the country.

With nearly 14,000 guest rooms, lodging options are affordable, making it easy to stay and play. Scenic beauty like the red rocks of Garden of the Gods Park, the purple mountain majesty of Pikes Peak - America's Mountain, and the natural cascading waters of Seven Falls are breathtaking and accessible. Colorado Springs is named among the nation's healthiest by Forbes, Men's Health and many more. Home to the United States Olympic Committee, Olympic Training Center, and over 40 National Governing Bodies like USA Basketball and National Strength and Conditioning, it's easy to see why it is considered by many to be the "amateur sports capital of the world." Athletes, along with friends and family, will enjoy the weather, scenery, attractions, amenities and competitive arenas this region has to offer.

Eau Claire, Wisconsin
The Eau Claire, Wisconsin, area is small on traffic, but big on spectacular sports venues, financial assistance, community passion and big-time event experience. In 1999, Visit Eau Claire, the official travel planning and tourism arm of The Eau Claire Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, began the process of setting up a Sports Commission to provide the mechanism necessary to bring in larger regional and national sporting events. With a goal of becoming a major player in Wisconsin, the Midwest, and the nation, the Eau Claire Area Sports Commission was formed in 2000. For a community of less than 70,000 people, this was quite a forward-thinking idea at the time and allowed the area to compete with cities twice its size. Eau Claire doesn't have a huge convention center, but it does have an historic baseball stadium in Carson Park - where Hammerin' Hank Aaron got his start, two state-of-the-art football facilities, giant gymnasiums, crystal-clear lakes and rivers filled with fish, and many other amazing sports complexes just right for almost any sport. Sports aren't just a pastime in the Eau Claire area, they're a way of life, and the area is committed to providing the best experience possible from the start of the bid, to the last out.

Kirksville, Missouri
Kirksville, Missouri, may host a smaller population than other Midwest counterparts, but this "North Star" knows how to have a big time. Dedicated fans show up in large numbers to enjoy both local and touring sporting events. Home to 10 public parks, the city enjoys well-maintained facilities. A 30-acre ball field complex with six fields for both baseball and softball, in addition to nearby batting cages keep Kirksville rooting for America's favorite sport, but this community has a leg up on less traditional pastimes as well. A brand-new skate park boasts the design of an area skateboarding organization and Thunder Ridge MX Park, with almost two miles of track, hosts motorcycle and ATV races on local, state and regional levels. Thousand Hills State Park and nine conservation areas bring in those who love to hunt and fish from across the country, ranking Kirksville among top contenders for hunting destinations. Two area golf courses keep residents swinging as late in the year as the weather will allow. Factor in Truman State University's collegiate facilities for football, basketball, track, soccer, swimming and more, and it isn't hard to conclude that Kirksville is a city that loves to play.

Long Island, New York
Long Island, New York, is a prime destination for youth or amateur sporting events, games, tournaments and competitions of all kinds -- both traditional and non-traditional.

Long Island has a rich history of hosting major youth, collegiate and professional sporting events, including the U.S. Open Golf Championships in 2009, the Big East Swimming & Diving Championships and the FINA World Cup, and the USA Gymnastics American Cup. Long Island's extensive golf history includes youth events such as the International Junior Golf Tournament (IJGT) and the American Junior Golf Tournament (AJGA).

Long Island offers a wide variety of state-of-the-art indoor and outdoor facilities and can accommodate events ranging from 50 to 5,000 people. Long Island's sports venues include lacrosse, football, soccer, swimming and diving, and dance and cheer competitions just to name a few. Long Island's complexes, parks, golf courses and stadiums are world-class, yet competitively priced. Its university and independent sports facilities are regulation size for various NCAA and ECAC sports. Long Island also has multiple facilities that have press boxes, media rooms and TV-ready lights. In addition, it has a centralized volunteer database of over 1,800 people to help with events.

Easily accessible by car, train, or plane (three airports serve Long Island: Islip MacArthur, JFK and LaGuardia), Long Island is also packed with things for the whole family to do when the games aren't on.

Marquette County, Michigan
Marquette County, in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, is the best kept secret for sporting events. The Superior Dome, located on the campus of Northern Michigan University, is home to the NMU Wildcat football team, and the U.S. Olympic Training Center. It doesn't stop there. Seating 8,000, the Dome hosts indoor soccer tournaments, state football playoffs, Olympic events, indoor softball tournaments in February, concerts, and a variety of trade shows. Attached to the Dome is the Barry Events Center which has hosted Apolo Ohno and the Short Track Skating events, both World Cup and Olympic. Over the ice a basketball court goes up in record time to also host basketball and volleyball events.

The Dome is the world's largest wooden indoor dome and serves Marquette well. Being an outdoor recreation destination, the Dome will often serve as the finish to many events, such as the Noqeumanon Ski Race in January, or one of the numerous biking events during the year.

Marquette Country has more hiking and biking opportunities than anywhere else in the Upper Peninsula. Marquette boasts thousands of miles of back roads, marked trails, logging roads, cross-country ski tracks, national and state forest trails, and paved biking paths. Indeed, every year Marquette plays host to the Ore to Shore Mountain Bike Epic and the Superior Bike Fest, attracting thousands to the region.

Monroeville, Pennsylvania
Monroeville, Pennsylvania, is a great place to compete, play and experience a new convention venue. Located 12miles east of Pittsburgh with easy access to the Pennsylvania Turnpike, Monroeville is sure to be a great fit for many sporting events. The community accommodates softball, baseball, soccer, football, golf or any outdoor recreational activity with well-lighted and maintained fields. For indoor events, Monroeville offers nearby premium facilities for aquatics, any racquet sport, rugby, soccer, basketball or volleyball.

The Monroeville Convention Center (MCC), Western Pennsylvania's newest convention center, has 100,584 square feet of exhibition space that could function as an ideal spot for numerous types of indoor sports events, and a new Doubletree Monroeville hotel next door that provides 191 guest rooms and 41 deluxe king corner rooms. The area offers many other popular hotels, as well. Numerous restaurants, including fast-food establishments, family-style eateries, a sports pub and fine dining, abound to suit your needs. When you're not on the field, Monroeville's shopping districts, including the Monroeville Mall, offer plenty of diversions and entertainment. Event planners concerned with emergency planning will be glad to know that The Western Pennsylvania Hospital—Forbes Regional Campus is located right in Monroeville.

Ocean City, Maryland
People love an opportunity to head to the beach, and exciting sports programming only adds to the enticement. Ocean City, Maryland, hosts premier year-round sporting events, and its standout attractions and facilities make it a spot people look forward to visiting. Located within close, and drive-to, proximity to New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Richmond, the town features 10 miles of pristine beach, three miles of award-winning boardwalk, more than 9,500 hotel rooms and 25,000 condominiums, and plenty of amenities.

Northside Park is Ocean City's largest and most popular park facility. The 58-acre complex boasts three lighted softball/baseball fields, a lighted soccer field, multipurpose field, a fishing lagoon, a foot bridge, concession stands, playgrounds, picnic area, piers, a gazebo, walking/jogging paths, a 14,200 square foot gymnasium, and a sports center annex with a 21,000-square-foot multi-sport arena. In addition to Northside Park, Ocean City's beach and boardwalk can also be utilized and are ideal locations for marathons and triathlons. The city's 17 championship golf courses - and the town's own Eagle's Landing course - make Ocean City, Maryland, one of the hottest up-and-coming golf destinations on the East Coast.

The Ocean City Convention Center offers 160,000 square feet of very flexible space ideal for indoor sports such as wrestling, cheerleading and gymnastics. The center is currently undergoing an $8.1 million expansion, which will add 20,000 square feet of ballroom space.

Redding, California
Redding, California, offers world-class sporting facilities and exceptional weather for sporting events. Whether an event will take place indoors or out, inclement weather won't put a damper on the plan as Redding is the second-sunniest city in North America, so you can count on sports activities being possible year-round.

The Redding Soccer Park has four all-weather NCAA regulation-sized lighted fields with a full-service snack bar. Big Leagues Dreams features replicas of Fenway Park, Wrigley Field and Yankee Stadium along with batting cages, roller hockey, outdoor volleyball courts and a full restaurant. More fields are close by to accommodate larger tournament needs. Redding also boasts a state-of-the-art Aquatic Center with an Olympic-size competition pool, a PRCA rodeo facility, and a 2,000-seat Convention Center.

While in Redding, event participants and spectators can take time away from the event to enjoy hiking or biking on the Sacramento River National Recreation trail. Or they might want to take advantage of Redding's fishing, rafting, kayaking, sailing and boating venues, or they may just opt for a stroll across the world-renowned Sundial Bridge. If indoor fun is more appealing, miniature golf, cart-racing and laser-tag facilities are also available.

As the largest city north of Sacramento, Redding offers 2,500 hotel rooms to meet any budget, a variety of restaurant choices, attractions and activities; all within a 10-minute drive!

Rolla, Missouri
Rolla, Missouri, is an ideal location for sporting events, activities, training and competitions. Those are the prime reasons Rolla says it is "Engineered for Sports." With over 300 acres of park land, 50,000 square feet of gymnasium space, the Ber Juan Tennis Complex, which is an official USTA championship complex, and ample meeting rooms, space is available for a number of high-quality sporting events. Every event offered within the community has been well received and supported, as Rolla has been recognized with numerous awards for its local spirit and enthusiasm.

In addition to its rich pre-civil war railroad, and U.S. Route 66 history, the appeal of Rolla and the region to visitors lies in its recreational opportunities. Called one of the "101 Best Outdoor" towns, Rolla's outdoor attractions abound with numerous springs, forested hills, rivers and trout streams. The parks system boasts over 304 acres including more than 10 miles of walking/bike trails, outdoor water park, a skate park, and state-of-the-art indoor fitness complex. The Centre, Rolla's health and recreation complex, includes a 4,000-square-foot fitness center, two gymnasiums, walking track, child care facility, and aquatics center with an Olympic-size pool, three-story water slide, lazy-river, and vortex.

Accommodations include numerous hotels, motels, and bed and breakfasts, and a wide variety of home-style, family restaurants, all available at affordable prices.

Sainte Genevieve, Missouri
Despite being the oldest town in Missouri, Sainte Genevieve offers up-to-date sport facilities for tournaments and events. Sainte Genevieve is located one hour south of St. Louis off Interstate 55. This quaint French Colonial town is best known for its history, events, shopping, wineries, arts and antiques. However, Sainte Genevieve has a lot to offer as a sports venue, including complimentary itinerary planning, and facilities to accommodate golf (The Sainte Genevieve Golf Club is a public, eight hole, par 72 course located just minutes from Sainte Genevieve), baseball, softball, basketball, volleyball and martial arts.

The town hosts the Sainte Genevieve Rivertown Classic, a Little League Network tournament, twice a year that accommodates up to 10 teams and their families. Sainte Genevieve is also an excellent venue for cyclists. It is located on the Mississippi River Trail and is home of the annual Le Tour de Sainte Genevieve, a Missouri Championship Road Race.

Accommodations include a host of bed and breakfast establishments, including The Southern Inn which was constructed in 1790. It is complemented by the leisure-time experience in Sainte Genevieve, which is far from mundane—an antiques mall, a stained glass shop, art studios, an old-fashioned ice cream parlor, and unique wineries with scheduled wine tastings, to name a few eclectic ways to enjoy some down time.

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