Sports event owners and rights holders who are still casting around for a new location have overlooked the perfect place, according to Terry Hasseltine, executive director of Maryland Sports.
“People need to write 100 times, ‘I will not bypass Maryland when awarding activities,’” he laughs. “Seriously, we want them to know they’re making such a mistake if they’re not looking around here.”
With topography as varied as the U.S. itself, Maryland is primed and ready to host any event a sports planner has in mind. From mountain biking and whitewater kayaking in Western Maryland, to marlin fishing in Ocean City, to soccer in the plethora of sports-field complexes spread across the state, to cheerleading and gymnastics events in the Baltimore City and Ocean City Convention Centers, to indoor or outdoor tennis complexes to baseball in no less than nine minor league ballparks and more, the state has much to offer.
“It really is an ideal location,” says Hasseltine. “We have over 1,200 sports venues located within a day’s drive of over two-thirds of the U.S. population.”
What’s more, Hasseltine adds, the state is accessible to travelers using any other mode of transportation. Baltimore Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport is one of the most active airports in the country; additionally, three other international airports allow access. The state has rail transit through Amtrak or several commuter lines. (Planning to travel by boat? Maryland is on the water and offers numerous marinas, as well as the Inner Harbor of Baltimore.)
But no matter how an athlete or a team arrives, says Hasseltine, it’s all about the sports facilities they come to use. And Maryland has them.
“We have a plethora of venues,” he notes. “You can go to one end of the state and find a ski resort, and go to the other and find a beach for sand soccer. We have amazing sailing to the south and horse racing in the city and county. There’s basketball inside and plenty of fields for lacrosse, which is the official team sport of Maryland.”
To go by the numbers, Maryland is divided into 24 counties, plus Baltimore City. The Maryland Sports website has a breakdown of hotel rooms (more than 71,000 spread over five different regions), plus statistics on sports facilities: over 175 golf courses, 400-plus competition fields, not to mention equally impressive numbers of swim centers, ice arenas, shooting facilities, raceways, marinas, parkland – and the list goes on.
The beauty of Maryland, Hasseltine adds, is that it can accommodate not only every sport but every discipline at every level.
Take running, for instance. In addition to having a nearly unlimited variety of roadways for 5K and 10K races through everything from historic neighborhoods to rural byways (one weekend race even went through the Fort McHenry Tunnel, which goes under the Baltimore harbor), Maryland hosts marathons and half marathons (the Baltimore Running Festival, for example, offers a variety of distances, including that 26.2-mile stretch.) The state also brings in trail runners (one of the Ragnar Relay events, the Reebok Ragnar, will take place in Cumberland), JFK 50 miler and track & field athletes (the state’s high schools and colleges offer up their facilities to outside events.)
Cycling is another great example. In addition to large recreational rides (one example is the Seagull Century in October, which benefits Salisbury University), the state hosts the Gran Fondo National Championship in Frederick, in September. In addition, there are more than 50 trails, many following former railways, to host all manner of events.
Baseball and softball events come to play in Maryland and return year after year. In Wicomico County alone, for example, USSSA hosts its Eastern World Series and its Blast at the Beach, and Fruitland Baseball Tournaments will host 10 straight events before the summer is over. Wicomico County offers seven facilities of varying sizes, with a range of amenities.
ryland is also the birthplace and home of Cal Ripken and in Aberdeen, only 35 miles from Baltimore, is the Cal Ripken Stadium, where tournaments are held throughout the season. Facilities include the baseball stadium, dugouts, concessions and merchandise stands. The venue is a replica of Oriole Park at Camden Yards, and now features The Warehouse, a Marriott property for athletes and families.
With so much to offer, it doesn’t come as a surprise that Maryland is also home to some of the most well-respected tournament organizers and event rights holders nationwide. Among those are Elite Tournaments, Aloha Tournaments, Corrigan Sports Enterprises, Disabled Sports USA and Hogan’s Lacrosse. National Governing bodies with their headquarters in the state include North American Table Tennis, Orienteering USA, US Lacrosse, US Table Soccer Federation, National Steeplechase Association, United States Youth Cricket Association and the Thoroughbred Racing Association. These organizations host many of their events in the state.
“We at Maryland Sports have the fortune to work with them all year-round,” says Hasseltine proudly.
Accessibility and venues are outstanding reasons to consider the state, but when you add in TEAM Maryland, says Hasseltine, you’ve discovered the reason behind the exponential growth of sports events.
“Over the past seven years, the state of Maryland has pursued over $1 billion in event recruitment activity, has secured well over $500 million in economic impact and hosted successful events of all sizes and scope. We have been successful because of the partners and stakeholders we continuously work hand in hand with to ensure every event is a success.”
Some of the big-name events Maryland has hosted include the NCAA Men’s Lacrosse National Championships, World Football Challenge (Chelsea vs. AC Milan, as well as Manchester City vs. Inter Milan), Dew Tour, CONCACAF Gold Cup, USATF Junior Olympics, Baltimore Grand Prix, ICF Canoe Slalom World Championships, Army-Navy football games, USATF Indoor Master Nationals and ACC Men’s Soccer Championships.
Hasseltine says TEAM Maryland continues to add to the robust growth of sports events and to the portfolio of satisfied event owners who keep coming back. With its offices in various counties, the organization makes it a habit to partner with one another to put on events when additional facilities are needed.
“Collaboration, coordination and communication,” is how Hasseltine describes the effort. “Not only are the counties growing their sports but they look out for each other and for event owners so that we can host events of all sizes.”
TEAM Maryland assists with various aspects of sports event production and is adept at helping event owners and rights holders locate venues, hotels, vendors and more. New to Maryland Sports is the Amateur and Youth Sports Grant Program, which has the goal of fostering the presence of sporting events in Maryland that generate a significant economic impact to local communities. Grants are available to non-profit sports event rights holders, NGBs and/or tourism-related organizations to support and conduct amateur sporting events in the state.
Maryland Sports also has ties to two other major players in the area. Maryland Sports is a member of the Cities of the Big Ten collaborative, with two Big Ten member institutions: the University of Maryland and the Johns Hopkins University. It also works with the Mid-Atlantic Amateur Sports Alliance (MAASA), the collaboration between Wicomico County, Worchester County and the Town of Ocean City.
It isn’t uncommon, says Hasseltine, for visitors to take an extra few days to explore the state and see what it has to offer. In Baltimore alone, the Star-Spangled Banner Historic Trail includes dozens of landmarks and sites, including Fort McHenry (birthplace of the National Anthem) and the Star-Spangled Banner Flag House where Mary Pickersgill sewed the flag seen by Francis Scott Key. There is also the Babe Ruth Birthplace and Museum and the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of African American History and Culture. The Baltimore Inner Harbor is filled with shops and restaurants, and the National Aquarium in Baltimore and the Maryland Zoo are popular day trips as well.
“We have so much to do here, not just sports,” Hasseltine notes. “You can take an extra two days and go sightseeing in the city, and if you want to go to D.C. and see that, it’s a 25-minute ride on the metro. We’ve got a lot. We almost have too much. We’re just an ideal location.”
To learn more about Maryland and how Maryland Sports can host your next event, go to www.marylandsports.us or call 410-223-4158.