Some Like It Hot: The Southeast
30 Jun, 2010By: Amy Henderson
Ladies and Gentlemen - start your engines! And head to the Southeast. This region is hotter than ever and we're not talking about the temperature. The Southeast has long been a hotbed for sports and it appears as though it's only continuing to grow.
From football to fishing, from baseball to biking, and from racing to running there's no shortage of available venues to choose from across this sizzling region.
Top Notch Venues
Not only does the Southeast's climate allow for outdoor sports to be played all year long, but versatile sporting venues throughout the region provide ample resources to plan your event.
Winston-Salem, NC boasts several top rated facilities with a long history of notable events. Wake Forest University, Winston Salem Entertainment & Sports Complex, BB&T Park and BB&T Soccer Complex all call this historic city home.
As host to the NCAA Men's Basketball Championship, Davis Cup, and CIAA Men's Basketball Tournament, Winston Salem has distinguished itself as a gathering place for competitive events. To add to its repertoire, the city will host the Powerade State Games in 2011-12 with25 different sports played throughout the area.
"The State Games chose our area for our facilities," said Casey Hough, Marketing & Media Manager for Winston Salem Convention & Visitors Bureau. "We have a great support staff and volunteer base and we can host multiple events in the immediate area."
Utilizing local colleges and universities is a common theme throughout the southeast.
"We have great facilities within Alachua County," said Jack Hughes, Executive Director of the Gainesville Sports Commission. "Including the University of Florida, Santa Fe Community College and the parks managed by Gainesville Parks and Recreation Department."
"We believe we've got athletic facilities that would more often be found in communities of 1 million plus, but yet we have a small town feel when it comes to youth events," Hughes continued.
The Gainesville Sports Commission has been busy attracting events for over 20 years. "Annually, we host or help with more than 30 events that include State High School Championships, U.S. Synchronized Swimming Collegiate National Championships and the Sunshine State Games," said Hughes.
All total, the area's sporting events result in $16-20 million in direct spending.
The Gulf Coast of Alabama relies heavily on county resources. "We have amazing sportplexes in our area," said Beth Gendler, Director of Sales Alabama Gulf Coast Convention & Visitors Bureau and Sports Commission. "They are top notch facilities with top notch staff, families are well taken care of."
The facilities and service translate to 23,193 room nights and $7.6 million in direct spending.
Charlotte, NC is coming off a busy month of May. The Queen City hosted the Quail Hollow Championship with the country's leading PGA golfers competing, and the Charlotte Ultra Swim featuring Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps. The last two weekends of May produced the largest revenue generating events -NASCAR's Sprint All Star race and the Coca Cola 600.
The North Carolina Motorsports Association reported in 2009 that the combined economic impact of these races resulted in more than $230 million for the area.
"We have such great facilities," said Tim Newman, Chief Executive Officer of the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority. "From small amateur events all the way up to the NCAA Football Championship, our brand is backed up by folks being able to do whatever they want to while they are in town. And we have the hotels to support these events. "
NASCAR, born in the South, has grown from humble beginnings of running moonshine to a multi million dollar industry and is a commonly thought of attraction in this region.
Not only does the Southeast host 16 NASCAR Sprint Series races every season, but also the Weekly Series, truck racing and NHRA competitions.
The latest crown jewel in the racing world is the recent opening of Charlotte's NASCAR Hall of Fame. With over 150,000 square feet of interactive attractions highlighting the heritage of NASCAR, the HOF is expected to draw millions of visitors annually and an economic impact of $60 million dollars.
"The Hall of Fame has given us additional convention booking," said Newman.
"It's that destination asset that is uniquely ours and when people think of Charlotte they will think of the Hall of Fame," Newman continued. "Then they will get to see all of the other great things we have as a destination."
Just down the road from NASCAR's Daytona International Speedway, lies an attraction of a different kind. "The Everglades are a great tourist attraction," said Ralph Pryor, Sports Marketing Coordinator of the Sports Council of Collier County. "We are also a first class beach destination and the combination of the facilities has us at a 50% event return rate which is fairly high."
Likewise, Orange Beach has beautiful beaches. "We are known for being a strong family destination," said Gendler. "We have miles of white sandy beaches and about 80% of the people come back."
Orange Beach also boasts the Amphitheater at the Wharf, a 10,000 seat state of the art performance facility. "The USSSA Global Baseball World Series Opening Ceremonies will beheld at the Amphitheater," said Gendler. "It's a great resort lifestyle area with great attractions and restaurants."
Down Home Hospitality
Chances are good that most people in the south will say ‘y'all' and ‘yes ma'am.' A man's word is better than a contract and that hospitality translates to business.
Partnering with other communities in the area is not uncommon in the south. "We've been able to build up good networks," said Hughes. "We rely heavily on that face to face, handshake interaction. We like to be in a position that if there is an event coming to another community and for some reason that event needs to be moved they would think of us."
"We all know each other and try to keep the business in the state of Florida," continued Hughes. "If our friends know we are going to do a good job, they will recommend us."
The Sport Council of Collier County takes that relationship one step further. "We work closely with the other commissions and counties and what we do is coordinate Parks & Recreation, Tourism and the Sports Council which streamlines us to be competitive," said Pryor. "Unlike other areas that have a brick wall between agencies we have agencies that share the same vision."
Newman agrees with that approach, "So many times, we are the anchor," he said. "We work closely with the different regions because they might have the facilities we need to host a larger event."
But it's not just CVBs and Sports Commissions that can lend a hand in securing business.
"Our cities have worked with the SEC quite a bit and we work very closely with NAIA to partner with them to bring events to our area," said Gendler. "Once you are ‘in' with a particular group, you just start growing among the conferences."
On the Horizon
So with all of these great sporting venues and attractions in place what lies on the horizon for this region?
"The sports market is hugely important in our case because they are a good, reliable piece of business that is recession proof," said Newman. "People want to see their child play in a tournament and if they are going to come to anything it will be a sports event."
Pryor is also looking forward to the future. "We are building a major league baseball field and training facility.We were close to bringing the Chicago Cubs to our area and the initiative is coming from the private sector and all major departments are on board. One way or another we are going to do that and attract a team."
Whether utilizing the great facilities that are available today or keeping an eye on the future for the newest venues and attractions, the Southeast continues to be a hot spot for sports.