Perched on the west bank of the Mississippi, Cape Girardeau is the largest city between St. Louis and Memphis. The city's fortuitous location has made it a popular destination for more than two centuries, and hospitality is a heritage these Missourians take very seriously.
The Power of People
Every community has its assets. You might guess that Cape Girardeau's crowning distinction is its prime, central location or perhaps its unusually extensive collections of parks, trails and sports facilities. But if you ask anyone in Cape Girardeau, they'll tell you the town has a gift above all these things: its people.
"Truly, our number one strength is our people," says Chuck Martin, executive director of the Cape Girardeau Convention and Visitors Bureau. "When someone comes up with an idea, whether it's a community member or an event owner, everyone just jumps in to make it happen. That makes all the difference in the world when you're trying to build a successful event."
That's the magic of Cape Girardeau, the reason that this quaint river town is blessed with a surprising wealth of exceptional sports facilities, and why Cape Girardeau is a regional hub making a serious mark on the sports world.
Expectations Always Exceeded
A community of less than 40,000, Cape Girardeau has the charm and ease of a small town with the resources and amenities of a much larger city. Southeast Missouri State University, for example, brings top-notch NCAA events to town, along with world-renowned cultural and performing arts.
The same holds true for the city's facilities. For a city this size, you might expect some small parks with a few fields and swings. But in Cape Girardeau, you'll find a 7,200-seat arena, an Olympic size swimming and diving facility, more than 14 soccer fields and 24 baseball/softball fields, 10 miles of trails connecting the city's parks and a world-class golf course. And that's just the beginning.
There are Hazards, Laddie
Of course, there are hazards in this charming little town, and they've made Cape Girardeau famous. That's because every single one of those hazards is located on the celebrated Dalhousie Golf Course, a private golf club that has attracted the national golf spotlight and more than a few prestigious awards.
The course's Nickalus design provides its most famous features: challenging Scottish links-style golf that winds through the landscape, giving golfers the unique ability to see other holes on the course without being in the path of play. It makes Dalhousie both an extraordinary place to play and an exceptional place to watch some of golf's stars-and future stars.
In 2009, the American Junior Golf Association (AJGA) held its Rolex Tournament of Champions at Dalhousie, and the event brought more than 60 coaches, 150 players and their families and fans to the Cape.
"The AJGA is a wonderful junior organization that gets players ready for future golf, whether it's college or pro touring," says Jack Connell, Dalhousie's director of golf. "The whole community helped out."
Dalhousie is in talks with AJGA about future events, and in the meantime, the course will be hosting a 2011 USGA US Amateur Qualifier this August.
"Dalhousie is a great course for all ability levels because we offer five tees for nearly every hole," says Connell. "These tees make it possible for players with a wide range of skill levels to enjoy the course."
In 2009, Golfweek Magazine named Dalhousie Golf Club as one of the Top 100 Residential Courses, and Dalhousie has also enjoyed the title of "#1 Course in Missouri" in Golf Digest's "Best in State" Ranking for the past four years.
This August, the Special Olympics of Missouri's State Outdoor Championships will return to Cape Girardeau, bringing more than 700 athletes for three days of golf, tennis and softball competition. It's the second event in a four-year contract, and Cape Girardeau is already buzzing about how to top 2010's excitement.
"People got really involved," says Penny Williams, recreation division manager, Cape Girardeau Parks and Recreation. "There were boards all over town, where people wrote messages of encouragement, and we used those for the backdrop at the opening ceremonies."
Sarah Vickery, director of sales & marketing, Cape Girardeau CVB, credits the city's Parks & Rec department with the event's overwhelming success. "We're really lucky to have a Parks & Rec department that can just take events and really run with them. They do a fabulous job."
The Special Olympics Outdoor Championships make use of several, but not all, of Cape Girardeau's outstanding facilities. Thanks to a recently passed Parks & Stormwater Initiative Tax, Cape Girardeau has invested $19.5 million in new and upgraded parks and recreation facilities throughout the city.
Shawnee Park Sports Complex & Parks Center. Shawnee Park Sports Complex is a 120-acre facility with a variety of new and upgraded fields, as well as a new Park Center, which opened in late March, featuring a 6,500 square-foot gym, a 1,540 square-foot meeting room, full-service kitchen and an 870 square-foot fitness room. Surrounding the Park Center, Shawnee Park Sports Complex offers:
8 lighted regulation softball/baseball fields with scoreboards and fencing
3 lighted soccer fields
11 unlighted soccer fields of varying dimensions, two of which can also be used for football
3 concessions stands with covered pavilion
Shawnee Park has hosted state and regional events for organizations including ASA, NSA and USSSA.
Arena Park and the A. C. Brase Arena. Host to many of Cape Girardeau's youth softball and baseball leagues, Arena Park features 15 softball/baseball fields (11 lighted), four of which can be used as lighted flag football fields, as well as seven concession stands, four restroom facilities and two batting cages. The Park also features the A.C. Brase Arena, a versatile 10,000 square-foot multi-purpose community center that regularly hosts martial arts tournaments, concerts, trade shows and banquets. With a maximum capacity of 1,800, the Arena can accommodate one full-size basketball court or two full-size volleyball courts.
Osage Center. With a 16,677 square-foot main floor, the Osage Center can hold two full-size basketball courts or four volleyball courts. The facility features a newly expanded fitness room with an indoor walking/running track, a concession area and caterer's food prep area, and three newly added meeting rooms for a total of six meeting rooms. But Osage's biggest draw is the adjacent Cape Splash Family Aquatic Center. Offering the perfect between-games entertainment, Cape Splash, which opened in 2010, offers 3.5 acres of slides, pools and all-around water fun for the entire family.
Show Me Center. Nationally known for its service, the Show Me Center is a $13.5 million multipurpose facility that has earned a reputation for making anything work—and work well. The 7,200-seat arena, home of Southeast Missouri Redhawks basketball, can accommodate essentially any sport, and preparations for this fall's Missouri State High School Volleyball Championships show off the Show Me Center's commitment to service.
"We have three scoreboards, but they're wired to work together," says David Ross, director, Show Me Center. "But for this championship, we needed each to work separately, one for each court. So we just got up there and rewired."
The Cape Way
With 1,000 lodging accommodations, this multi-state regional hub is an easy place to stay, and when the games are over, Cape Girardeau is also a great place to play. Visit Old Town Cape district, 130 blocks with more than 300 shops, restaurants, galleries and historic sites. Settle in for a show during the city's annual "Tunes at Twilight," a free outdoor concert series at the historic Courthouse Gazebo. Hit the trails for a hike or visit the Cape Girardeau Conservation Nature Center.
And remember: if you don't know what to choose, just ask. The people of Cape Girardeau are the town's biggest fans, and they're always ready with a friendly suggestion.