Welcome to Greensboro, North Carolina. A city with its roots on basketball's famed Tobacco Row, it's no surprise that this Southern gem has earned the nickname Tournament Town. A mecca for youth sports and a favorite stop of collegiate and professional sports as well, Greensboro proves that size doesn't make the sports city: it's all about having commitment, heart and the finest facilities around.
"I think in the sports world, a destination is defined by its facilities, and we have impeccable facilities to host youth and collegiate sports events," says Henri Fourrier, President, CEO and Director of Marketing/Communications, Greensboro Convention and Visitors Bureau. "We continue to expand our facilities, along with our event profile. We've done everything from cross country and basketball to fencing, trampoline-both national and international-and even dog Frisbee competitions."
It's this city's dedication to sports of all kinds that keeps many events coming back year after year. That, and a few of the East Coast's most fantastic facilities, including:
Greensboro Coliseum Complex. One of the largest multi-use sports and entertainment facilities in the Southeast, the Coliseum Complex includes a 23,500-seat arena, which can downsized to 11,500, and a 116,000-square-foot special events center/exhibition hall that features a mini-arena with seating for 4,000. The facility's first-class amenities include 6,000 paved and lit parking spaces, locker room, complete concession and catering services.
The Coliseum, a regular host of ACC basketball championships and NCAA regionals, will soon host its largest event to date, the 2011 U.S. Figure Skating Championships. The Championships will be held Jan. 22-30, with more than 250 skaters in the novice, junior and senior levels competing over the course of eight days to become U.S. champions.
"We were able to offer U.S. Figure Skating something unique," says Fourrier. "Because of the Coliseum Complex's size, we were able to provide a venue in which skaters can compete, practice and interact with fans at the FanFest experience all in the same place. And the event's headquarters is just a hop away at the Greensboro Sheraton at Four Seasons, a 1,000-room hotel with 250,000 square feet of meeting space."
Greensboro Aquatic Center. Scheduled to open in the summer of 2011, the 74,000-square-foot indoor Greensboro Aquatic Center (GAC) will be a state-of-the-art facility featuring cutting-edge aquatic design. The GAC will bring together all major aquatic sports-competitive swimming and diving, water polo, synchronized swimming and other unique sports-all in one venue, offering Greensboro the opportunity to host high school and collegiate events, USA Swimming meets, Master's swimming and U.S. Water Polo events as well as a myriad of local, regional, national and international competitions.
Even while under construction, the facility has already impressed U.S. Masters Swimming, which has selected the GAC as the site for its 2012 USMS Spring National Championships. The four-day U.S. Masters Swimming Spring Nationals competition will take place in April 2012, with nearly 2,000 adult swimmers, including many Olympians, participating in four days of swimming competition.
Bryan Park Golf & Conference Center. One of the more buzzed about facilities in the sports world, Bryan Park Golf & Conference Center offers much more than its name implies. Voted in Golf Digest Magazine to be "One of Best Sites Not to Have Hosted U.S. Open," Bryan Park, which just hosted the U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship, offers two championship 18-hole golf courses, a club house enrichment/conference center and practice and learning center.
But here's where the facility surprises you: Bryan Park also boasts an 18-field (four lit) soccer complex and the 2,000-seat MacPherson Stadium with amenities such as paved parking, concessions and locker rooms. And Bryan Park doesn't stop there. You'll also find four tennis courts, volleyball, hiking and cross country facilities, picnic shelters and sailing and fishing on Lake Townsend.
Irwin Belk Track at North Carolina A&T State University. One of the premiere track and field facilities in the country, the Irwin Belk Track hosted the 2009 U.S. Junior Olympics, a six-day event that featured more than 7,000 athletes from across the country. In 2010, Irwin Belk hosted the NCAA East Championships and the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) Outdoor Track and Field Championships, underscoring Irwin Belk's appeal to the track and field community.
Irwin Belk Track has earned praise all over the track and field world for its fast Mondo track surface and the overall facility. One of the largest facilities of its kind on the Eastern seaboard, Irwin Belk Track at NC A&T offers seating for 21,500in its multi-purpose stadium.
Barber Park. Greensboro's Barber Park features Simkins Indoor Sports Pavilion, a year-round facility with eight plexi-court tennis courts and four combination basketball/volleyball courts, as well as the Penn-Wright Baseball Stadium, home field of the Eastern Baseball League. Penn-Wright Baseball Stadium offers a range of amenities, including a pressbox for tournaments, concessions area and stadium seating.
Barber Park is more than just a standard sports facility, though. Within the park, you'll also find an 18-hole disc golf course,outdoor amphitheater, one mile walking trail and several brand new amenities: six picnic shelters, a playground and Tot Spot and, for those occasional hot North Carolina summer days, a spray ground.
While it may seem impressive, this short list of facilities hardly scratches the surface of where to play in Greensboro.
"We're so fortunate to have amazing facilities through our wonderful Parks & Recreation Department, as well as the use of the fantastic facilities at five colleges and universities in the area," says Fourrier. "With our range of facilities, Greensboro definitely stands poised to do youth and collegiate sports, and to do them well."
Greensboro, the Destination
Located in the center of North Carolina, Greensboro is a five hour drive from both Atlanta, Ga., and Washington, D.C.
"Our location really adds to our affordability," says Fourrier. "Because Greensboro is a drivable distance for much of the Eastern and Southeastern U.S. population, most families and athletes can make the trip without buying a plane ticket, which makes a big difference."
Greensboro's location also adds to its family fun factor.While the city has an abundance of attractions within its limits, many families are attracted to the area for sports events by Greensboro's proximity to some major natural attractions.
"A two-hour drive and you're in the mountains, and a three-hour drive takes you to the ocean," explains Fourrier.
Outstanding facilities certainly have a lot to do with the city's sports event popularity, but the city itself can take some of the credit. With activities from historic Revolutionary War and Civil Rights museums to some of the East Coast's largest water parks, Greensboro has plenty to please. The city also boasts some of the East Coast's best choice and affordability for events.
"There's something in Greensboro to entertain everyone, and we are always very careful with scheduling, being sure that our guests always taken care of first," says Fourrier.
Speaking of being taken care of, Greensboro always has the perfect place to rest your head, with 10,000 hotel rooms in the city limits and 16,000 within the metro area. "Our hotels come in price points to meet any budget," says Fourrier. "With 86 properties total, you've got all options from five star resorts to middle tier and limited service."
Spirit of the City
Facilities, location and affordability are all key considerations when selecting a sports event destination,but there's one more crucial point: spirit. And Greensboro's got spirit in spades.
It's something you learn through the stories of past sports events. There was the time a young athlete blew out his tennis shoes during a late practice. All of the Greensboro stores were closed, but one call to the owner of a local athletic equipment store, and that owner was on the road, delivering a new pair of shoes to the athlete's hotel.
There are stories of impromptu parties set up for athletes in hotel ballrooms and local shop owners donating merchandise -like hard-to-check pole vault sticks-for athlete use during events. In Greensboro, these stories aren't special cases. They're just the way things are done. And that is exactly why, where sports events are concerned, Greensboro is truly the ultimate place to play.