On Christmas Eve 1892, the University of South Carolina Gamecocks hosted their first-ever football game, planting Columbia’s roots of a passionate sports tradition, one that flourishes all across the city today. More than a century later, South Carolina’s capital city welcomes sports of every kind to enjoy the Columbia championship experience.
In the Heart of Sports Country
Columbia has a heart for sports, one that’s easy to share with sports lovers all over the East Coast, thanks to the city’s location. Three major interstates come together in Columbia, meaning that whatever the logistics of your event, transportation will never be one of its challenges.
Weather is yet another one of Columbia’s natural assets. If you like predictable weather, and most sports event organizers do, then Columbia is the destination of your dreams. Most days are warm, and 300 days a year, they’re sunny. Whether you’re hoping for beautiful weather for your event or stunning weather for your off the field playtime, Columbia delivers ideal conditions for every kind of recreation, all year round.
Building Better Competition
Columbia might come by its central location and brilliant weather naturally, but that doesn’t mean they sit back and let nature do everything. This growing community is always working hard to improve and impress.
The city has over a billion dollars in improvements and projects in progress right now, just one of the many reasons that Columbia is consistently ranked among North America’s top cities. In fact, The Sporting News ranked Columbia number 63 out of 322 U.S. and Canadian metro areas in terms of their sports climate, based on a range of criteria, including stadium quality, accessibility and ambiance, ticket availability and marquee appeal of athletes.
Even if you aren’t a marquee athlete, the Columbia Regional Sports Council strives to deliver a spotlight experience. As part of the Convention and Visitors Bureau and Convention Center staff, Columbia’s Sports Council team represents Lexington and Columbia and delivers a broad range of services and support to sports event owners and their teams.
“We have great relationships with the local media, and we work hard to see that our events get the attention they deserve,” says S. Scott Powers, executive director, Columbia Regional Sports Council. “Columbia is a big enough market to offer exciting coverage opportunities, but we’re small enough that our sports events actually get noticed.”
The Council partners with event owners to provide a number of services you might expect, such as arranging hotels and site inspections, coordinating permits and recruiting volunteers, but they also provide a few unique and unexpected services.
Microsites: Regional and national events have access to the Council’s Web team, which is available to create a microsite for each event. These sites can be used as a communication hub for the event as well as valuable promotional tools.
Guest blogging: The Council offers event organizers and/or participants the opportunity to write guest posts for its sports blog. The team will also promote these posts through its extensive social media strategy.
Social media: Social media is one of the most effective methods of building excitement for an event, increasing participation, providing effective communication during an event and increasing potential for future events, and it’s also one at which the Columbia team excels.
Sports for All
From the usual suspects to the unexpected, sports of all kinds find an outstanding destination in Columbia:
Tennis: Between the Lexington County Tennis Complex and Cayce Tennis and Fitness Center, tennis events have an exceptional home in Columbia. For the third time, the facilities hosted tennis’ next generation of all-stars at the USTA Junior Team Tennis National Championships. Lexington County Tennis Complex has 21 lighted hard courts, and Cayce Tennis and Fitness Center has 30 lighted courts, seven of which are specifically sized for players younger than eight. Every player, no matter what age, can achieve championship status in the Center’s 2000-seat championship court.
Running: When other destinations are headed indoors, outdoor events like The Color Run’s “happiest 5K on the planet” head to Columbia’s dependably friendly weather. Columbia is also home to the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers South Carolina 5K Run & Walk, presented each fall by Lexington Medical Center. The event honors Stephen Siller, a New York City firefighter and father of five who died on September 11, 2001. Siller was off-duty on Sept. 11 and on his way to play golf, but when the call went out about the World Trade Center tragedy, he grabbed his 60 pounds of gear and ran from the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel to the World Trade Center. He was last seen with his brothers of Squad 1 saving lives. Today, Tunnel to Towers is a national program that champions America’s heroes:
"Three cheers for the Columbia SC Tunnel to Towers, a truly awe-inspiring event from start to finish. My baby brother Stephen would be so very proud of you all for your efforts to honor those bravest heroes past and present. Great run, great town and even greater people. True patriots and kind and generous folks. What a wonderful country we have with people who care about our heroes. Be proud of what you have created; it's truly something very moving and incredibly special. Keep following the footsteps of our American Heroes! God speed, Columbia, from Boss George Siller. What a day you made for us all!"
- George Siller
Baseball: Sixteen teams from 11 states headed to the Columbia region for the 2010 Dixie Youth Baseball 'O' Zone World Series at the Lexington Sports Complex. The area has a deep and enthusiastic baseball love, which, along with the city’s 13-field complex, made it the ideal home for Southern baseball’s big event. Players and coaches came from all over the South and beyond—Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia— to compete in the eight-day tournament in this annual event.
Rowing: Columbia is the place to be for collegiate rowers ready to hone their skills in the off-season. Each spring, more than 150 rowers from four college teams flock to Columbia for training. Columbia’s year-round temperate climate makes an idyllic setting for water sports, along with its unobstructed, three-mile stretch of the Broad River. This spring, rowers from prestigious rowing teams, including Georgetown, the University of Pennsylvania, Stony Brook University and Vassar College gathered in the region for five-plus days, taking full advantage of the area’s ample sunshine and sports hosting acumen.
Soccer: Each October, the Columbia Regional Sports Council partners with the South Carolina United FC (SCUFC) to bring the Annual Carolina Cup youth soccer tournament, which draws 225 youth soccer teams from four states, including South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee and Georgia, including more than 7,000 attendees. The event is one of the area’s largest and most popular tournaments, along with its St. Patrick’s Day Cup in March. Both events take advantage of the area’s many outstanding soccer facilities, including the Lexington Soccer Complex, the Old Barnwell Road Soccer Complex and Polo Road Park.
Taking it Indoors
Just because Columbia has welcoming weather doesn’t mean they haven’t invested in indoor sports facilities that are just as remarkable. The International Dance Challenge is a national competition with over 15 categories from acrobatic/gymnastic and clogging to ethnic/folklore and contemporary pointe. Its Columbia regionals will move to the incomparable facilities at the University of South Carolina campus in 2015:
“We are really falling for the Columbia Sports Council! You and your team are to be commended for your hard work. We can't thank you enough for your care, energy and time. Tremendously appreciated, thank you so much.”
- Randy Coleman, CEO/president, International Dance Challenge, LLC
Even More than Sports
Facilities and an expert team are crucial aspects to any successful sports event, but to draw participants who long to return year after year, one more element is critical: fun. That’s where Columbia, with world-class attractions like the South Carolina State House and Riverbanks Zoo & Garden, puts the icing on the sports destination cake. Find out more about how to take advantage of all that Columbia offers at www.columbiasportscouncil.com.