Sports Landscapes Designed by Mother Nature | Sports Destination Management

Sports Landscapes Designed by Mother Nature

Jul 01, 2023 | By: Mary Helen Sprecher

In the arms race among cities   to build bigger and better sports venues, itís easy to forget that one of the best landscape and design entities is Mother Nature herself. Nationwide, there are mountains that lend themselves to electrifying downhill winter sports, as well as to trail running and cycling events, lakes where populations of fish await anglers and, of course, oceans whose sandy beaches host volleyball, and whose waves propel surfers and spectators into an adrenaline rush.

We’ve asked a few selected destinations to provide event owners with some insights on the natural attractions that make them a great fit for outdoor events. Their answers are found below.

Illinois: Rockford

Illinois: RockfordFrom forest preserves to parks, the Rock River, sporting facilities and so much more, the Rockford region has amazing outdoor experiences around every corner.

Outdoor adventurists can explore the Forest Preserves of Winnebago County, one of the best systems in Illinois with more than 10,000 acres of natural areas, recreational areas, lakes, rivers and forests. From watching migratory birds being banded to boating at Rock Cut State Park and casting a line at places like Baumann Park, there are once-in-a-lifetime outdoor experiences on the trails of the Forest City.

Canoeing and kayaking on the Rock River, Kishwaukee River and throughout the region is a staple on everyone’s itinerary when the temperatures warm up. Larsen’s Landing Outfitters and Rocktown Adventures both specialize in fun, outdoor experiences for all age levels. Novices and experts alike can join in on the excitement.

West Rock Wake Park is the Midwest’s only cable wakeboarding park. At West Rock, visitors can wakeboard on Levings Lake thanks to a system of cables, with no boat and no experience required.

The Rockford region is a Real. Original. City. of gardens and rivers and a wonderful place to spend a life, or just or a weekend. Event owners can learn more at

Indiana: DuBois County

Indiana: DuBois CountyDubois County is home to community parks both big and small, attracting visitors and residents alike. The Parklands of Jasper is a 75-acre major urban renewal endeavor, turning a private nine-hole golf course and woodlands into Indiana’s natural destination.

The park features two miles of walking trails including a multi-purpose path, three ponds all connected by elevated pathways, two water cascades, 25 acres of woods, a wetlands area for nature studies, splashpad, adventure play area featuring climbing rocks and balance beams, a tree fort, musical playground and pavilion and patio overlooking one of the ponds.

The Parklands is where the annual Parklands 6 Hour Endurance Relay takes place in May. DC Multisport hosts this unique event in which teams compete to complete the greatest number of laps around the park in six hours. This fun and recreational event brings participants out for team camaraderie and fun by setting up base camps at the start/finish area of the race.

Rules are few and far between. Teams can be made up of one-, two-, four- or six-person teams and can be all female, all male, or coed. Awards are given to the first place team in each category. Check out DC Multisport’s Facebook page for updates and information on when registration is open.

Indiana: South Shore

Indiana: South Shore In this destination, it is possible to embark on a one-of-a-kind adventure exploring the most diverse landscapes in the Midwest. Visitors can hike the towering dunes and explore forests, cycle miles of trails or paddle and fish on the open waters. Visitors can also keep their eyes open for over 350 different bird species and native plant life they won’t find anywhere else. The crown jewel of outdoor activities is Indiana Dunes National Park and State Park, stretching 25 miles along the south shore of Lake Michigan.

The South Shore Convention and Visitors Authority and the National Park Service partner with Leon’s Triathlon Obstacle Course each year on September 11th. This event is part of a national recognition of the 9/11 attacks and honors military veterans and first responders. The 5K and 10K championships feature obstacles representing numerous American conflicts.

This race is part of the Indiana Dunes Outdoor Activities Festival and is packed with a multitude of outdoor adventures. The festival brings together over 50 events in one weekend. Centered at the Indiana Dunes Visitor Center in Porter, Indiana, the festival showcases the region’s outdoor activities such as hiking, paddling, biking, geocaching, photography, birding and so many others. The festival has events for everyone including families, beginners, experts and those with limited mobility.

Learn more at

Kentucky: Cumberland County

Kentucky: Cumberland CountyAs the largest city near the water, Somerset is the capital of Lake Cumberland and there are lots of ways to get around these parts: by kayak, boat, bike, foot and car. In addition to having the distinction of being the Houseboat Capital of the World, Somerset is filled with attractions off the water, including wineries and craft breweries, SomerSplash Water Park, Haney’s Appledale Farm, Mill Springs Battlefield and Museum and The Virginia Theater.

A variety of local restaurants and community events year-round combine to make Somerset an outstanding vacation and event destination. Lake Cumberland is host to many fishing tournaments, and anglers will find both largemouth and smallmouth bass, Kentucky bass, white bass, walleye, trout, crappie, bream and rockfish (also known as stripers). The incredibly clear and deep waters of Lake Cumberland make it a premier fishing lake.

What is Somerset-Pulaski County’s other best-kept secret? It is the 15 miles of hiking and mountain biking trails nestled in Pulaski County Park, an 804-acre mecca for outdoor adventure in western Pulaski County. This trail system offers varying levels of difficulty while providing incredible views of Lake Cumberland as hikers and bikers traverse the course.

More information on what Somerset-Pulaski County and Lake Cumberland offer can be found at or give us a call at 1-800-642-6287.


MaineThe Maine Sports Commission’s tagline captures the style of this New England state’s outstanding, outdoor four-season scene: Maine. Sports. A Natural Fit.

Diverse land, mountain and road trails, pristine waterways and the Atlantic all invite endless opportunities for event owners. Historically established as a fishing and hunting destination, today’s Maine features an array of competitive sports; this state’s portfolio of outdoor signature events is evolving and growing.

The Nordic Trail Festival welcomes cyclists to Aroostook County, home to the country’s first mile, for a celebration of community, trails and lifestyle. IRONMAN 70.3 Augusta sets the stage for another unique experience; triathletes compete in Maine’s capital city, swim the Kennebec River, navigate rolling hills by bike and run along the Kennebec River Rail Track.

The Hincapie Cycling Gran Fondo will be hosted in Bangor, August through 2024; cyclists from around the nation will ride alongside legendary George Hincapie while experiencing scenic roads throughout the Maine Highlands.

Sugarloaf Mountain, a Boyne property, will host the Enduro World Series, one of only two American stops in this international mountain biking series. A Maine Olympian, Adam Craig, now on the Sugarloaf team, helped design the trails for this challenging East Coast ride.

Event owners are invited to come discover all Maine offers as a summer destination.

Michigan: Great Lakes Bay Region

Michigan: Great Lakes Bay RegionWith its abundant, winding waterways and beautifully interwoven trails, Pure Michigan’s Great Lakes Bay Region is a natural arena for sports from paddling to cycling to tournament fishing.

Tranquil rivers meander along farmlands and forests and even right through charming downtowns, providing a scenic sportscape for anglers and paddlers. From the Cass River that flows through Frankenmuth past authentic Bavarian architecture to the Saginaw River that stretches from its namesake city to and through the bustling heart of Bay City, both paralleled by picturesque Riverwalks, water opportunities abound.

The region also boasts easy access to one of the best walleye fisheries in Michigan, the Midwest and beyond: Lake Huron’s Saginaw Bay. Saginaw Bay and its tributary Saginaw River lure avid walleye and bass anglers to enjoy both a relaxing pastime and masterful competition.

Back on land, the Great Lakes Bay Regional Trail system sets the groundwork for cyclists, runners and even equestrians. Nearly 100 miles of breathtaking paths, mostly comprised of old railroad corridors, weave through cities and scenic countryside.

Beyond its naturally crafted sportscapes, Pure Michigan’s Great Lakes Bay Region hosts a variety of other impressive venues, including the largest indoor/outdoor tennis facility in the Midwest and a soccer complex with 22 contiguous, regulation-size fields.

Keep exploring Pure Michigan’s Great Lakes Bay Region at

Montana: Missoula

Missoula, Montana | Photo courtesy of Taylar Robbin Windfall
Missoula, Montana  |  Photo courtesy of Taylar Robbin Windfall

Nestled in the Northern Rockies of Montana, surrounded by seven wilderness areas and at the confluence of three rivers, Missoula is an outdoor enthusiast’s paradise. While getting outside is easy in Missoula, choosing your next adventure may prove to be a bit more challenging. From whitewater rafting to skiing fresh powder, there’s no shortage of outdoor activities to choose from.

Get ready for an epic sports event in Missoula! We’ve got it all: a recreation hotspot where play is king, a town buzzing with arts, culture, delicious food and friendly locals. Oh, and let’s not forget about the three rivers and seven wilderness areas right in our backyard; it’s a paradise for sports lovers.

Destination Missoula is here to make your event extraordinary. Our dream team of local experts will use their industry know-how, connections and creative spark to help you line up the perfect venues, accommodations, transportation arrangements and exciting group activities. So why settle for ordinary when you can have the Missoula experience of a lifetime? In our little mountain town, the fun never stops, even after the game is over.

This is a recreation hotspot where play is revered. Where teams come together for the love of sport in a town pulsating with arts, culture, food, drink, rich roots and friendly locals, not to mention three rivers and seven wilderness areas. The offerings are many and diverse, and the hospitality and amenities are top notch.

In Missoula, we play long after the game is over. Let us put our industry experience, local connections and creativity to work for you.

Oklahoma: Tulsa

Oklahoma: TulsaWhile Tulsa earns international recognition for its Art Deco architecture, world-renowned cultural institutions and performance venues, T-Town also boasts incredible outdoor experiences at every turn.

Tulsa’s natural landscape provides the perfect setting for events like Certified Piedmontese IRONMAN Tulsa, Saint Francis Tulsa Tough and Tulsa Federal Credit Union Tulsa Run. Connected by more than 100 miles of biking and running trails, Tulsa is the ideal destination for any sports enthusiast.

Visitors can explore an abundance of green spaces from downtown Tulsa to the surrounding suburbs, many linked by River Parks’ beautiful 26 miles of asphalt-surfaced trails, weaving past playgrounds, fountains and sculptures along the banks of the Arkansas River. River Parks offers dual trails for pedestrians and cyclists, plus seasonal enjoyment of fishing, rowing, kayaking and disc golf.

Enjoy Tulsa’s average 227 days of sunshine, from downtown’s Guthrie Green to the award-winning Gathering Place, named the “Best City Park” in the U.S. by USA TODAY. To the south, experience Turkey Mountain’s 45 miles of trails, perfect for hiking, mountain biking and equestrian use. Nearby Keystone Lake, past host to the Bassmaster Classic, is perfect for camping, kayaking and fishing, and provides scenic hiking and biking trails.

Oregon: Eugene, Cascades & Coast Area

Eugene, Oregon | Photo courtesy of Michael Sherman
Eugene, Oregon  |  Photo courtesy of Michael Sherman

The Eugene, Cascades & Coast region of Oregon is home to unrivaled natural venues. Triathlons, mountain biking, cycling, gravel races and endurance runs thrive in the miles and miles of natural courses. Also flourishing are water sports, such as speedboat racing and rowing, at numerous lakes and reservoirs. The coast plays host to sand soccer and volleyball.

The Oakridge/Westfir area is synonymous with world-class mountain biking and is designated as a Gold Level Ride Center by the International Mountain Biking Association (IMBA). Cottage Grove is home to the annual Oregon Gran Fondo and USA Triathlon-sanctioned Rolf Prima Tri at the Grove. The McKenzie River Trail Run, established in 1988, is Oregon’s oldest continuous ultramarathon.

The Columbia Drag Boat Association (CDBA), the premier racing association of the Pacific Northwest, races regularly on Dexter Lake. Dexter is also home to a permanent regatta course (fully buoyed with seven lanes) that hosts the annual Covered Bridge Regatta and hosted the Pac-12 Rowing Championships in May. Dexter features a stunning lakeside 18-hole disc golf course as well.

From mountain lakes and national forests to sand dunes at the coast, few regions in the world are as uniquely suited to hosting sporting events in natural landscapes.

Virginia: Virginia Beach

Virginia: Virginia BeachThere’s simply an electrifying energy in Virginia Beach, one that compels you to move, do and be a part of the action. Bringing together our unique coastal spirit with state-of-the-art facilities, Virginia Beach is the ideal place to host an unforgettable sporting event. From indoor to outdoor sports and from friendly games to massive tournaments, Virginia Beach is a prime setting for competition.

Elevate your sporting event to Virginia Beach by immersing yourself like a local. Home to one of the last great salt marsh habitats on the East Coast with hundreds of miles of inland waters, thousands of acres of parks and countless trails, the largest estuary in the US in the Chesapeake Bay and miles of pristine beaches, Virginia Beach has something for everyone to explore.

Virginia Beach may be famous for its gorgeous beach and outdoor spaces, but the city’s newest sports facility makes it a pleasure to be indoors. Opened in October 2020, the Virginia Beach Sports Center is a state-of-the-art facility that is ready to host a wide variety of indoor sports, including basketball, volleyball, indoor track & field and indoor field hockey. Its 285,000 square feet of convertible space can accommodate 12 basketball courts, 24 volleyball courts, nine field hockey courts and a 200-meter hydraulically banked track, and it can hold up to 5,000 spectators to watch the action.

Our doors are open to event owners, and to athletes and their families. Come play, relax, recharge and enjoy everything Virginia Beach has to offer. The invitation is open. We’ll see you when you get here.

Wyoming: Casper

Wyoming: CasperA hub of outdoor recreation, Casper, Wyoming, is an ideal location for sporting events of various sizes. Sitting at the base of Casper Mountain, Casper combines the best of the West, like wide-open spaces and room to breathe, with modern amenities and venues that are well-prepared to host all types of sporting events.

Athletes in indoor events like wrestling, rodeo, basketball and dance competitions will enjoy the 28,000-square-foot multi-purpose Ford Wyoming Center. Casper Mountain is the perfect location for outdoor winter sporting events and competitions at Casper Mountain Biathlon Club and Hogadon Basin Ski Area.

The mountain also has 26 miles of trails for hiking, mountain biking, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. Additional venues for sporting events include the Casper Ice Arena, Central Wyoming Fairgrounds, Mike Lansing Field, North Casper Soccer Complex, Platte River Whitewater Park and Stuckenhoff Shooters Complex.

Beyond venues, Casper has a thriving downtown with local restaurants, shops and David Street Station, a year-round outdoor venue that hosts concerts, markets and special events. The city is home to diverse lodging options, with additional highlights that include the National Historic Trails Interpretive Center, the Tate Geological Museum, Fremont Canyon and the North Platte River. SDM

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