Nestled in the southern central San Joaquin Valley of California, Bakersfield boasts of beinga sports-friendly city for good reason. With over 300 days of sunshine a year, more-than-ample sporting facilities, affordability and welcoming attitude, it's no wonder athletes and event planners alike give Bakersfield a hearty 'thumbs up.'
Outdoor Sports Shine in This Sunny Climate
With so many rain-free days a year, Bakersfield is an outdoor sports enthusiast's dream. While the city hosts sporting events as varied as BMX racing, wakeboarding and paintball, soccer is especially big in Bakersfield.
Kern County Soccer Park
One reason behind soccer's popularity in this area is the Kern County Soccer Park, one of the largest soccer facilities in California. Set in the foothills of northeast Bakersfield, the venue has 25 fields, including 21 regulation-size fields (four lighted), four modified fields and parking for over 1,500vehicles. This 78-acre facility also features separate tournament headquarters and referee buildings that are located near the center of the complex.
"What's great about the Kern County Soccer Park is that everything here is in one location including all of thefields and space for tournament headquarters," said Dana Hamilton, director of Publicity for the Kern County Soccer Park. "Not only are we one of the largest soccer venues in California, but we designed our facility with event planners in mind - everything is in one spot."
The Kern County Soccer Park has been home to numerous successful large tournaments such as the CalSouth State Cup Soccer tournaments, as well as local club league matches. The complex also features telephone, internet and overnight parking services available onsite, along with conveniently located restroom andconcession facilities placed throughout the facility
California State University Bakersfield Main Soccer Field
For soccer events drawing larger crowds, California State University Bakersfield's main soccer field is the go-to choice. The field features seating for 2,500 fans including a 1,500-seat grandstandand lawn seating. The field is lighted and is known for its pristine conditions. Because of the setting and the local passion for soccer, the university's men's and women's soccer teams regularly lead the NCAA-D-II for attendance.
In addition to the main soccer field, the campus is home to 12 regulation tournament fields and space for tournament headquarters; it is also close to many restaurants and hotels.
Bakersfield Sports Village
In the near future, the area will also boast of aSports Village, which is being built by the City of Bakersfield. The Sports Village will be home to 16 soccer fields, 12 baseball fields, six football fields and a community center. Surrounding areas will feature a park with lake for family outings and two restaurant-shopping plazas. The soccer fields, part of first phase of the project, are scheduled to open in the fall of 2010.
Indoor Sports Also Flourish Here
While outdoor sports are a given in Bakersfield, indoor sports also thrive, thanks to the Rabobank Arena. From wrestling to hockey to basketball, the spacious, smartly configured venue is proof that there's more than outdoor sports in Bakersfield.
This state-of-the-art facility gives theathletes the big-arena atmosphere feel, but is designed to let the crowds stay close to the action. The arena features 10,000 permanent seats, a four-sided video board, a 360-degree ribbon board and20,000 square feet of floor space. Also attached are a convention center and theater.
The venue can be configured for most indoor sports events. Plus, event directors can utilize the adjacent convention center exhibit hall space with 30,000 square feet as a warm-up area. Both venues are connected via an indoor walkway, which provides seamless access from the warm-up area to the competition floor without the need to enter or exit multiple buildings. This reduces the number of security staff normally needed to monitor credentialed participants and media and smoothes logistics, a feature frequently cited by events planners as a huge draw.
"Rabobank Arena really does have unique configuration - and is the only one like it in the state," said Steve Womack, general manager of Rabobank Arena. "For example, you can have a practice facility, have weigh-ins going on and have 10,000 people watchingsimultaneously. This is the reason event planners have fallen in love with the building."
The arena recently hosted to California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) State High School Wrestling Tournament, which is slated to return to Bakersfield through 2012. Plus,it will host the 2010 CIF State Basketball Tournament and is home of the Bakersfield Condors, a ECHL AA hockey team, as well as the California State University Bakersfield men's basketball team.
With eight locker rooms, a club suite, 26 luxury suites,media area and hospitality areas, along with great sightlines from every seat in the venue, the Rabobank Arena was designed with athletes, spectators and event planners in mind. Furthermore, concession and merchandise areas are strategically placed around the concourse area for convenience and efficiency.
Location, Value and Local Support make Bakersfield a Great Package
A highly centralized location, fast access to all points within Bakersfield, and a supportive community are other reasons numerous sporting events have held events here.
Chris Huot, marketing and events specialist at the Bakersfield Convention & Visitors Bureau explains. "We're the population center pointof California. Ninety percent of the state's population is within a four-hour drive of Bakersfield."
Easy accessibility by air, train, car and bus lure teams and events from the region and across the country. Bakersfield is only 15 miles eastof Interstate 5, California's major north-south interstate and sits on State Highway 99, a major Central Valley thoroughfare. The local airport, Meadows Field, also recently expanded, offering direct and non-stop flightsto Bakersfield from destinations across the globe.
And with Bakersfield's smaller size, visitors can drive from one side of the city to the other in 15 minutes, a fact that guests from larger, more congested cities appreciate.
Plus, the local community ralliesbehind the sporting events held there.
"The community's support is invaluable. For example, the local paper covers our sporting events extensively. If you hold a tournament or game here, you'll likely see it on the front page of our sports section,unlike what you'd find in a larger city." said Rabobank Arena's Womack.
Lower Prices make Bakersfield a Smart Choice
Bakersfield is also known for being an economical destination - an important consideration for sports planners on a budget. The city's hotel room ratesaverage 40 to 50 percent less than the state average.
"The savings continue to add up when you talk about venue rental costs," said Huot. "From the Rabobank Arena to one of our many sports venues, you'll be challenged to find more value for your attendees."
With 5,400 rooms available, Bakersfield has the infrastructure to host events of all sizes. To make hotel planning and room management even easier, the CVB now offers online housing services so attendees can easily compare hotels, rates and amenities.
To further increase the location's value, attendees of local sporting events receive a wristband that provides discounted admission at any of the four local museums, including the zoo located next to the Kern County Soccer Park.
"We really cater to groups, especially for youth sports," said Huot. "We're always looking for ways to make our guests feel welcome."
In their downtime, many visitors also hit the links at the area's highly regarded golf courses with some of the lowest green feesaround.
Don Cohen, executive director of the Bakersfield Convention & Visitors Bureau sums it up best by stating, "When someone asks 'Why Bakersfield?' I ask, 'Why not Bakersfield?' We're not only the population center point of one of the largest states, we're a sports center point too."