If you thought Los Angeles, site of the 2028 Olympics, had the lock on California’s best sports facilities, prepare to have your paradigm shifted. There’s a sweet spot in Ventura County, about 45 minutes north of that bustling metropolis that has quietly been wowing event owners and exceeding team members’ expectations for several years now. And its reputation is growing.
Camarillo, located about midpoint between L.A. and Santa Barbara, has the distinction of combining small town affordability and hospitality with an always-desirable SoCal location. And here, under year-round sunny skies and temperate conditions, the area has been blossoming into a go-to destination for a variety of field sports.
“Camarillo’s fields are beautiful and the recreation and parks district staff takes really good care of them,” says Adriana Huizar, executive director of the Camarillo Hotel & Tourism Association. “We hear from tournament organizers who play our fields that we have some of the best-maintained competition facilities they’ve ever seen.”
Within Camarillo, the Pleasant Valley Recreation and Park District offers up venues at four separate parks to visiting sports event owners and rights holders. All parks, ready to host soccer, baseball, softball and more, also have ample free parking, including an above-average number of ADA-accessible spots, as well as an array of other attractions.
Pleasant Valley Fields, easily reachable via Highway 101, has a total of 12 FIFA-regulation soccer fields that can be converted into as many as 23 smaller fields varying in size for different age groups. Up to eight fields have lights for night play. This facility hosts as many as six tournaments per year (many with up to 110 teams). Some of the local soccer leagues that have made use of its facilities include the AYSO Region 68 (the 16th-largest region in the nation) and the nationally ranked Eagles Soccer Club.
Pleasant Valley can also boast three lighted softball fields with 60-foot bases. Temporary fences can be used, since these fields share space with soccer. Up to nine softball tournaments per year call Pleasant Valley home.
Want amenities and accessories? Pleasant Valley has them. There is a classroom for meetings or receptions for up to 35 people, and three separate restroom locations. In addition, the park has two concession areas (one with a full kitchen) and an updated playground.
Freedom Park has five baseball fields (three of which are lighted) ranging in size for different age divisions from one Adult/Colt age group, one PONY, two Bronco and one Mustang. Additionally, there are two open space fields for warm-up and team camp areas. Freedom Park has announced plans to construct more facilities in the future, providing a total of 10 baseball fields plus four Shetland or tee-ball fields without skinned infields.
Freedom Park also has the on-premises Freedom Center banquet hall, as well as other function space that can host receptions or meetings. And if you thought Camarillo only had fields, think again. Freedom Park has a designated track for remote-controlled vehicles, a BMX track and even a venue for roller hockey. Freedom also has RV camp spots for dry camping.
The Bob Kildee Community Park has nine baseball fields (three of which are lighted), ranging from PONY (with permanent fencing), to Bronco, Mustang, Pinto and Shetland (which have temporary fencing). The park has space for one FIFA-size field and up to four small-side fields. The Indoor Aquatic Center, a modern playground, lighted tennis courts and the Skate Park are all also located on the park premises.
Mission Oaks Park has three lighted softball fields with 60-foot bases. The park hosts up to four tournaments each year; in 2013, the park was the site of the National Softball Association (NSA) World Series. There are three picnic shelters, an updated playground, six tennis courts and even an off-leash dog park. A running/walking trail adjacent to the park as well.
If your head is spinning from those possibilities – well, consider it part of the aforementioned paradigm shift. And add this to it: California State University-Channel Islands is also conveniently located and offers up its facilities, including its gymnasium, for events.
“What we’ve seen is that the university can bring in events like amateur training camps for soccer,” says Huizar. “It is an opportunity we can look into as well.”
Exploring ways to serve incoming teams and athletes is a specialty of Visit Camarillo, the destination marketing organization for the city.
“We’re always looking to see how we can help,” notes Huizar.
Ventura County is readily accessible by air. It’s a 45-minute drive from LAX, although the DMO can work with its transportation partners to help set up shuttles and other group transit. Closer still is the regional Santa Barbara Airport, which has increased flights in the past decade to answer the growing demand.
Sports event owners and rights holders are taking notice, too. Triple Crown Sports has brought its baseball tournaments to the area twice. Soccer continues to grow, with events in not only rec leagues but travel teams.
“Camarillo AYSO Region 68 hosts one of the top youth soccer tournaments in the nation, the AYSO Strawberry Cup,” Huizar says. “It comes here every May and brings about 240 teams and 1,600 athletes.”
Another travel organization, Eagles Soccer Club, brings in multiple tournaments throughout the summer, most with approximately 1,500 participants.
Still, says Huizar, the area is open to other possibilities, including road races, and organizers have only to ask Visit Camarillo for their thoughts.
Attractions Under Sunny Skies
Camarillo offers year-round weather conducive to outdoor sports. Wintertime highs are around the mid-60s, with summers in the mid- to high 70s. The beach is a 15-minute drive away, as are multiple attractions. Many, such as the WWII Aviation Museum and the Sky High Sports Trampoline Park, will appeal to kids and families, as will McGrath Family Farm, an agro-tourism destination.
Camarillo Premium Outlets, with more than 160 stores, (“one of the biggest outlet malls on the west coast,” says Huizar proudly) is minutes from the sports facilities. Old Town Camarillo offers up a plethora of eateries, bars and more. Studio Channel Islands, one area of Old Town, has studios, exhibitions, cultural festivals, special events and more. And yet nature is still able to provide some of the best entertainment.
“You can catch a charter boat to the Channel Islands and do some whale watching,” adds Huizar. “There’s just so much here.”
Staying in Town
After playing on the lush green fields and exploring the highlights of the area, every visiting team needs a place to call home and Camarillo delivers this as well. The area offers properties in a variety of price points and service levels, and almost all are the nationally known names event owners and rights holders are familiar with.
“We have 11 hotels and motels in the area,” says Huizar, “giving us about 1,000 rooms in Camarillo. If more are needed, we know all the properties in Oxnard and Ventura. Ventura County has some of the most accessible rates anywhere; people are usually surprised they’re getting these kinds of prices in Southern California.”
In fact, for marketing purposes, Camarillo, Oxnard, Ventura County and Port Hueneme work together as the Ventura County Coast, leveraging their accommodations, facilities and attractions and capitalizing on what makes each destination unique, in order to offer ever more to a growing tourism economy.
Welcome and Warmth
Visit Camarillo often hears compliments from visiting teams about the level of support and enthusiasm that greets them.
“Our community has a lot of younger families, and sports are a big deal here. People get very excited about them,” says Huizar. “Our locals are really laid-back, friendly people who just love to welcome visitors to our area.”
Visit Camarillo intends to keep that experience going, too.
“We offer a Southern California experience with small town hospitality and pricing,” says Huizar. “Whatever people need, we can help coordinate it to make their event successful. We definitely are here to help out.”
To learn more, go to VisitCamarillo.com, call 844-775-2533 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. There is also a section on the website to submit an RFP. SDM