Domico Rodriguez, sports and events sales director for the Rapid City Convention and Visitors Bureau, has a challenge for you: why plan just a tournament when you can make your tournament an event?
You can do it in Rapid City, South Dakota.
“You can have a tournament anywhere. Softball and baseball fields look the same no matter where they are,” says Rodriguez. “But with everything there is to do in Rapid City, suddenly your tournament becomes a monumental happening that no one wants to miss.”
Just a short drive from some of America’s most famous and breathtaking attractions, Rapid City is a town that truly deserves the word 'destination.' In these Black Hills, you can hit a home run in one of 30 baseball or softball fields, ride a bucking bronc in one of five equestrian rodeo facilities, and traverse some of America’s only urban mountain bike trails—all without traveling more than two miles.
Follow that with a 30-minute drive to Mount Rushmore, a tour of Badlands National Park, dinner at the Firehouse Brewing Company, and a good night’s rest in one of 40 hotels, and you’ve elevated your competition into an unforgettable vacation. This is Rapid City, where competition knows no bounds and hospitality always exceeds expectations.
A City of Treasures
A group of disheartened prospectors founded Rapid City in 1876, naming it for the limestone stream that passes through the area. It might not be the site of a gold rush, but the treasures of Rapid City are immediately clear.
Downtown Rapid City has undergone a revival, including an all-new Main Street Square, which opened in October 2011. The square provides an iconic and charming social center. In summer, the square will be home to a waterfall and fountain, along with farmers’ markets, a lunchtime concert series and a jazz and wine festival, among other events. The square will offer ways to celebrate the winter as well, with a public ice skating rink in the chilly months.
Real. America. Up Close.
Rapid City is a remarkable metropolitan destination, but it’s also the gateway to so much more. The hub to more than a million acres of breathtaking Black Hills scenery, abundant wildlife and unforgettable adventures, Rapid City puts you—and everyone at your sports events—face to face with the history, nature and mystery that defines this fascinating corner of the world. Many of the most intriguing and beautiful attractions in America are located in the Black Hills National Forest. The Black Hills area is home to six national parks and monuments, including the inspirational Mount Rushmore National Memorial and the visionary Crazy Horse Memorial.
Of course, that’s just the beginning. From private wildlife attractions and family amusement parks to ski slopes, historic gaming towns and 2.5 billion years of Black Hills and Native American history at The Journey Museum, Rapid City puts you in the center of it all.
The Last Word in Location
Talk about a central location: The geographic center of the United States is located about 60 miles northwest of Rapid City. With a population of just over 70,000, Rapid City is South Dakota’s second largest city, but it’s still an easily managed metropolitan area. You get all of the benefits of being in the city, plus a serious dose of convenience, relaxation and affordability.
Transportation is just as simple. Rapid City has direct flights to Chicago, Denver, Las Vegas, Minneapolis, Phoenix/Mesa and Salt Lake City on Allegiant, Delta, Northwest and United. U.S. Interstate-90 also runs right through town.
And here’s something you might not expect: Great weather. The city’s dry mountain climate means warmer temperatures than Minneapolis, less snow than Denver and more sunny days than Miami and Honolulu.
The Site for Sports
Investment is a constant project in Rapid City, which is how the town became home to such an impressive array of sports facilities.
“We have a strong Native American tradition here in Rapid City, which is easy to see when events like the Lakota Nation Invitational come to town,” says Rodriguez.
Rushmore Plaza Civic Center. Surrounded by a lake and seven acres of parks in the middle of the Rapid City greenway—a belt of gardens and sporting facilities along the banks of Rapid Creek—the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center has evolved to become one of the largest and most modern multi-use facilities in the region. The Rushmore Plaza Civic Center and its scenic surroundings are within walking distance of Rapid City’s historic downtown, where specialty shops, restaurants and hotels await. Inside the facility you’ll ?nd a 10,000-seat arena, a 1,746-seat performing arts theater, approximately 160,000 square feet of sporting and event space and support facilities for food services, staging, sound, lights, and more. The Rushmore Plaza Civic Center also continues to grow, with new entrances and a food court, as well as a new multi-purpose arena with a permanent ice sheet and seating for up to 5,200 spectators (7,427 concert seating).
“Baseball is something we do very well,” says Rodriguez. “Our Little League Baseball team just went to the World Series again for the second time in three years. We’re fortunate to have a great tradition in both baseball and softball, which has also resulted in some wonderful facilities.”
Star of the West Complex. With eight softball ?elds (and as many as 14 soccer ?elds depending on the age group of players), the Star of the West really shines. Built along the banks of Rapid Creek on the east side of town, the complex has become a mecca for softball and soccer tournaments. All eight ?elds lie in a circular pattern with concessions in the center. Each softball ?eld boasts 300 feet of fences, seating for 100, night lighting and easy access from nearly 600 parking spaces. The facility is easily reached from Interstate 90 and lies close to historic downtown. On Labor Day weekend 2012, the Star of the West will be home to Rapid City’s first-ever national softball event, the ASA Men’s C National tournament.
"Every January for the Black Hills Stock Show and Rodeo, the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center is transformed into an indoor rodeo arena with over 1,000 tons of dirt and miles of steel fencing." says Rodriguez. "If we can move award-winning rodeo indoors in the middle of winter, just think what we can do for your next sporting event."
Central States Fairgrounds. Set on 71 acres of prime land along the banks of Rapid Creek, the Central States Fairgrounds is a major events facility just minutes from historic downtown and easily accessible from Highway 44 and Interstate 90. With a grandstand that seats 6,000 and parking facilities for at least 8,000 vehicles, the Central States Fairgrounds is home to major events. Its 225-unit campground, over 40,000 square feet of indoor exhibit space and eight acres of outdoor asphalt display area come in handy, too. Of course, there’s also the indoor arena and events center, a favorite location for indoor motocross, equestrian events and trade shows.
Heaven on Wheels
Rapid City's prime location at the foot of the Black Hills makes it the ideal place for all types of biking. The city is home to several great venues for racing and riding, including an urban mountain bike park.
Hanson-Larsen Park, also known as M Hill or Cowboy Hill, lies in the heart of Rapid City and offers more than eight miles of trails. Hikers and bikers can enjoy exploring 300 acres of Black Hills wilderness without leaving the city limits. What’s more, because the park has paths fitting every skill level, from gentle grades for beginners to steep, rocky paths for the more advanced riders, there’s a trail for every rider.
Biking is such a Rapid City fascination that the city, along with the Black Hills Mountain Bike Association and various sponsors including New Belgium Brewery, created the Black Hills Fat Tire Festival. Each year in late May, Rapid City swells with crowds of cyclists, fans and enthusiasts of all kinds. Each year the festival draws more than 300 riders, six races, a film festival, and most importantly, the Dirk’s Draw Downhill Race, which requires riders to wear full face helmets.
Now that’s how to create an event.