For sports competitors, it takes passion and dedication to be successful. And to host successful sports events and tournaments, it takes a passion and dedication to not just sports, but also to making sure athletes, organizers, coaches, fans and families all have the best possible experience. In Winston-Salem, North Carolina, sports aren’t just about fun and games; they’re serious business. And that’s what makes Winston-Salem the perfect host city for both amateur and professional events.
“Our community is passionate about all sports,” says Bonny Bernat, senior sports & events sales manager for Visit Winston-Salem. “With a variety of venues capable of hosting nearly every type of athletic event, and with a community dedicated to ensuring events come off without a hitch, we’ve created a solid and successful track record, and we have incredible interest in what we can do for future events.”
The city is the proud home to both Wake Forest University and Winston-Salem State University, both of which boast impressive and diverse sports programs, facilities and venues. Winston-Salem has hosted the Powerade State Games of North Carolina, USTA Boys 12U National Clay Court Championships and NCAA Division II and III Indoor Track and Field Championships, to name just a few events. And every August, the city enjoys worldwide attention as the host of the Winston-Salem Open, an ATP World Tour 250 tennis event that brings in some of the best men’s professional tennis players in the world. Also on tap are world-class cycling events, track and field, and much more.
Among the sports that have been riding high in Winston-Salem are an array of cycling events that include road racing, mountain biking, BMX and cyclo-cross. “We’ve had some key cycling events take place here recently, and we have a number of important events on the schedule for this coming year and beyond,” says Christian Schroeder, director of sales and services for Visit Winston-Salem.
Three years ago, Tanglewood Park’s BMX course was named the Top BMX Track in the State, and the venue hosted the 2013 USA BMX Redline Cup Finals East. More than $20,000 in improvements have been made to the course since 2012, including a redesign, new paved turn and a viewing deck for family and fans at the start line.
Coming up on May 30 is the Winston-Salem Classic Criterium, one of 19 events on USA Cycling’s National Criterium Calendar. Then on May 31, the city plays host to the Winston-Salem Cycling Classic, a UCI (Union Cycliste Internationale) event and one of only seven events on USA Cycling’s National Racing Calendar for 2015.
In December, USA Cycling selected Winston-Salem to host the 2016 and 2017 USA Cycling Masters Road National Championships, which will bring in about 900 world-class cyclists each year and will take place in multiple venues throughout the area, including downtown Winston-Salem and the Yadkin Valley.
“Winston-Salem will be a great destination for our masters racing community,” says Micah Rice, vice president of events for USA Cycling, which is the national governing body of the sport in the U.S. “It is a strong cycling hub that we know will rally around our fantastic event. USA Cycling feels so fortunate to be able to bring the 2016 and 2017 Masters Road National Championships to Winston-Salem.”
“World-class” also aptly describes Winston-Salem when it comes to tennis. The Winston-Salem Open, played in August on 13 lighted hard courts at the Wake Forest University Tennis Complex, is one of nine Emirates Airline US Open Series events and draws world-class players such as John Isner, Tommy Robredo, Sam Querry, Gael Monfils and many more to this tennis-friendly community. Importantly, the Winston-Salem Open is the final stop for players as they tune up their games to play the US Open the following week.
“We have the same cushioned surface here as at the US Open, and the courts are resurfaced every year,” says Bill Oakes, Wake Forest’s associate athletic director and the tournament director for the Winston-Salem Open. Wake Forest also has eight indoor courts. In 2018, the Wake Forest Tennis Complex will host the NCAA Division I men’s and women’s tennis championships.
Throughout the year, Winston-Salem is home to a host of local, state and regional tournaments, in addition to college matches. Including the courts at Wake Forest, Forsyth County boasts 233 courts, including 20 hard and clay courts at the Joe White Tennis Center at Hanes Park, 10 at the Tanglewood Park Tennis Center, nine at the Smith Tennis Center at Forsyth Country Day School and nine at Salem College.
Track & Field Highlights
On March 13 and 14, Winston-Salem will host approximately 2,000 participants in the NCAA Division III Indoor Track & Field Championships, held at one of the premier indoor track and field facilities in the Southeast—JDL Fast Track.
JDL Fast Track, which opened in January 2012 and last year hosted the NCAA Division II Championship event, houses a 200-meter oval track with a Mondotrack FTX surface—the same surface that was used at the 2012 Olympics in London. Field event areas include two pole vault runways, two long/triple jump runways, a high jump apron and a throws area. The facility includes a 100-meter warm-up track, office and meeting-room space, a training room and hospitality suites.
Winston-Salem also has the distinction of being the first destination to host both the USA Track & Field (USATF) Masters Outdoor Championships and the USATF Masters Indoor Championships in back-to-back years. The outdoor event was held in July at Wake Forest University and the indoor championships will be March 20-22 at JDL Fast Track. And coming up in 2016, the city will host the National Junior College Athletic Association Men’s and Women's Indoor Track & Field Championships.
Soccer and Field Sports
Tournament and event organizers for soccer and other field sports will find Winston-Salem a ready host, with premier facilities capable of accommodating events of all sizes.
The Twin City Youth Soccer Association’s BB&T Soccer Park offers 13 full-size Bermuda grass fields. Nine of the fields have lights, and portable lights can be brought in for other fields. The BB&T Soccer Park also has a stadium field with seating for 1,400, with additional hillside seating for another 1,000 fans. The 5,800-square-foot Fieldhouse has a multi-media classroom/meeting room that seats 140, a team classroom for watching videos, concessions, training/medical room, locker rooms with showers and more. There’s also wireless internet throughout the facility, a filming tower for videotaping games and training sessions. There are also outdoor misting stations to keep players and fans cool during hot weather.
The Sara Lee Soccer Complex has 11 fields. Located nearby is the seven-field Hine Park Soccer Complex. “We have a lot of fields available for all sorts of events and tournaments, from soccer to lacrosse to field hockey, Ultimate, rugby and more,” Bernat says.
The Powerade State Games of North Carolina came to the area in 2011-2012, and Winston-Salem will co-host them in 2017-2018. “The Powerade State Games requires lots of well-maintained facilities for its thousands of athletes,” Bernat says. “We’re thrilled that we can accommodate these athletes.”
Golf, of course, is huge in North Carolina, and Winston-Salem has great courses players will find challenging and enjoyable. Also, a new course is opening in the area for the increasingly popular disc golf. The Patriot Triad Park Disc Golf Course is an 18-hole, 7,100-foot course, one of the longest in the state.
Winston-Salem is easily accessible at the crossroads of major thoroughfares I-85, I-77, I-40 and Highway 52 and within a day’s drive from most of the eastern half of the country. Also, Piedmont Triad International Airport, serviced by six major airlines, is just 25 minutes from downtown. “Our downtown area is a huge attraction,” Bernat notes, “with more than 100 restaurants to suit all tastes and budgets.” The area also has 48 hotels, offering over 4,800 rooms.
From amazing recreational sports facilities, to impressive venues such as the BB&T Ballpark (home to the Winston-Salem Dash minor-league affiliate of the Chicago White Sox) and the Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum (home to Wake Forest University Demon Deacons basketball), Winston-Salem shows its passion for all sports, and is dedicated to making events memorable for athletes, fans and families.