Pearland, Texas takes its sports seriously. This community of 115,000 hosts a number of sporting events,including soccer tournaments, triathlons, a volleyball classic, a basketball invitational and even a marching band competition. With a world-class natatorium featuring a 50-meter swimming pool currently under construction, Pearland will soon add large aquatic events to this list.
Impressive for a town whose population was 35,000 in the 2000 census.
This suburb, just 15minutes from downtown Houston, has experienced phenomenal growth in recent years. In fact, in 2007, Forbes Magazine named it one of the fastest growing suburbs in the United States. By the next census in 2010, Pearland's population is expected to reach 125,000.
Bryan Roller, vice president of destination marketing at the Pearland Chamber of Commerce, explains the reason for the growth - and the town's passion for sports.
"One of the biggest drivers behind our growth is our close proximity to the Texas Medical Center and NASA. Both are only 15 minutes away. In fact,Pearland has the highest percentage of TMC employees," he said. "We have also benefited from the leadership of the Pearland ISD (Pearland Independent School District) Board of Trustees and the districts state-of-the-art sporting facilities. Without their facilities and support none of this would have been possible."
In the past four years, area coaches, business owners, city departments and residents have teamed with the Pearland Chamber of Commerce to bring in a number of prominent sporting events, including:
Pearland Texas Basketball Classic
Featuring some of the top young basketball players in the country, the Pearland Texas Classicis co-hosted by Elite Action Sports and Mike Kunstadt's Great American Sports and is affiliated with Reebok. Over the past several years, the tournament has drawn some of the best talent in the region including Memphis Grizzlies' O.J. Mayo, Dallas Mavericks' Gerald Green, Los Angeles Clippers' Anthony Randolph and numerous collegiate stars. With more than 1,700 competitors - and more than half from out of the area - the event is a boon for the local economy.
"Pearland has 13 basketball courts and gyms within a five-mile radius, making it easy to host a large number of teams in an easily manageable area," said Roller.
Pearland Volleyball Classic
For the past 10 years, Pearland High School's head volleyball coach, John Turner, and his Pearland High School volleyball program have hosted the Pearland Volleyball Classic - an early season, three-day tournament that draws the region's top seeds. The only high school volleyball tournament sponsored by Nike, the event is also sponsored by Baden Sports and drew 76 teams in 2009.
McDonald's Texas Invitational
In 2008, the Pearland Chamber of Commerce and Pearland ISD joined forces with the Pasadena Chamber of Commerce to host two sites during the McDonald's Texas Invitational. In its seventh year, this early-season tournament is known as "A Monumental Event" because of the talent seen in the 48 boys' teams and 32 girls' teams drawn from across Texas and Louisiana.
The Texas Honing Open
The Texas Honing Open, part of the NGA Hooter's Cup Golf Tour, is another event drawn to Pearland's top-notch facilities and welcoming residents. The tour, which prides itself on being known where "Tomorrow's PGA champions are playing today," came to Pearland's Golfcrest Country Club course two years ago on recommendation of several of its players.
"Obviously, the NGA Hooter's Cup came to Pearland and Golfcrest because of the course, which is in great condition with a challenging layout," said Ryan Waters, the regional tournament director at NGA/Hooters Pro Golf Tour. "But what sealed the deal was the course staff who run a top-notch event along with the members and volunteers who put everything they have into the tournament to give the players a PGA Tour-quality event. Everyone has been superb to work with."
Bands of America Regional Championship
Every fall for the past three years, Bands of America, the nation's leading presenter of educational events and spectacular shows for high school bands, has held its 32-member regional championship at ‘The Rig,' Pearland ISD's high school stadium with artificial turf. In the past, this regional has featured a recent Grand National Champion and several Regional Champions and Grand National Finalists.
Pearland originally lured the event away from Rice University in Houston because of scheduling conflicts but has maintained the annual relationship with its top quality facilities and emphasis on customer service.
A New Natatorium Stands to Draw Major Swimming Competitions
By next summer, Pearland residents - and visitors - can expect to take advantage of a new natatorium and recreation center. The natatorium, a joint venture of the City of Pearland, the Pearland Independent School District and the Pearland Economic Development Corp, broke ground in June, 2009.
"Having a large, world-class facility will enable us to bring in larger swim meets that will definitely have an economic impact," Roller said.
The natatorium will include a 50-meter pool, double three-meter diving boards and double one-meter diving boards, along with a 25-meter warm-up pool with a zero-depth entry. The 97,000 square-foot facility will feature a recreation center that includes two basketball courts, a weight room, children's and youth rooms, racquetball courts, dance/aerobics and a multipurpose room, a kitchen, locker rooms, a second-story indoor track and a cycling room.
Bill Eisen, Pearland's City Manager explained that the natatorium's 50-meter pool is an upgrade from the original plans, which only called for a 25-meter pool.
"There aren't many 50-meter pools out there," he said. "Our economic development corporation helped finance the upgrade, so we could attract larger swimming events. That's how serious we are about sporting events in Pearland."
After the Game, Fun Beckons in Pearland
Pearland offers its visitors excellent venues, a convenient location and plenty of entertainment options once the game is over.
"There are ample opportunities here when you're not at the arena or ballpark," said Eisen. "We have more than 130 restaurants and the Pearland Town Center is a great place to spend time with a wide variety of shops."
The area offers visitors and residents remote parks for birding along Clear Creek, dedicated parks for amateur recreational activities, hiking and biking trails, fishing ponds and much more.
Named to reflect the abundance of pear orchards in the vicinity, Pearland is pronounced "Pear-land." Its year-round good weather makes it ideal for outdoor sports - and outdoor fun.
"There was snow on the ground once in the past 30 years,"Eisen remarked. "Visitors from colder climates find it really easy to get around, especially in the winter."
Where Convenience and Affordability Meet
Another attractive feature of Pearland is its affordability.
"Compared to other suburban areas in the U.S., our hotel and restaurant prices are lower. Visitors will find a good bargain on food and lodging here," said Eisen.
According to Pearland Chamber of Commerce's Roller, the city currently has 624 hotel rooms, up from only 145 two years ago. Additionally, three more hotels are currently under construction.
Pearland's convenient location makes it an easy choice for locals and visitors. Situated between Texas highway 288 and interstate I-45, Pearland is 10 miles south of Houston's William P. Hobby Airport, one of Southwest Airlines' hubs. It's less than 25 minutes from the Theater District, Minute Maid Park and Toyota Center. Reliant Center, home of the Texans NFL football team, is about 20 minutes north of Pearland. Nature lovers are fewer than45 minutes from fishing and camping at Brazos Bend State Park.
"And if you go south,you have the beaches of Galveston and Surfside, along with the Blue Water Highway that goes along the coast," said Roller. "There's truly no end to the activities in our area. If someone wants to come for a tournament and stay for an extra few days, this is an excellent jumping off place."
While athletes and their families come to the area for sporting events held in excellent facilities, they can expect to find southern hospitality throughout their stay.
"As a community, we all welcome visitors. People here are naturally friendly and we love to host people from out of town," said Eisen.
Pearland is perhaps best summed up by its tag line, "Perfectly located. Uniquely connected."