Destinations In The News: Southeast Part 2
Hot Spots & Hidden Gems
The Southeast has played host to a number of top-notch sporting events throughout the years thanks to the region’s unbeatable weather and variety of sporting venues. From the sports history of Jackson, Miss., to the wide variety of venues available in Virginia and West Virginia, here’s a sneak peek into some of the region’s hottest venues in Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia! Be on the lookout in the next couple of weeks for SportsEvents’ focus on the Western states. To read the Southeastern focus in full in our February issue, CLICK HERE.
Mississippi Gulf Coast
On the Mississippi Coast, the city of Biloxi is home to a number of top-notch sporting facilities, said Justin McGuffee, sports marketing sales manager. The Biloxi Natatorium features an Olympic-sized pool with a diving area, bleacher seating and a patio. The Biloxi Sports Complex is also a popular facility offering 70 acres of softball, soccer and baseball fields. For more information, visit www.gulfcoast.org.
The nearby Gulfport Sportsplex in Gulfport, Miss., was built in 2000 and has quickly become known as the premier youth fastpitch venue in the South, according to Rusty Ramage, supervisor, who said the eight-field facility offers the participating teams the opportunity to play at a first-class complex while experiencing the Southern charm that the area offers. For more information, visit www.ci.gulfport.ms.us.
In the state’s capital city of Jackson, sports enthusiasts can not only take advantage of a number of top-notch sports facilities, but can also explore sports history at the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum—named among the Top 10 “Most Amazing Baseball Museums in America” by ESPN. Sports facilities include the Legion Complex with six lighted softball fields and two lighted baseball fields, swimming pool, tennis and more; the Mississippi Coliseum with 6,500 permanent seats and 2,650 temporary seats on the arena floor; and the Mississippi Veterans Memorial Stadium, with on-site parking for more than 4,000, a three-story press box and seating for 60,004, including 85 elevated wheel chair spaces. For more information, visit www.visitjackson.com.
Snowden Grove Park in the state’s northern city of Southaven is a 17-field, baseball-specific facility that “possesses many features only previously found at professional stadiums,” according to Kim Smith, facility director for the City of Southaven. The city also is home to Greenbrook Park, an award-winning softball complex that has eight fields. For more information, visit www.jbjsports.com.
In the state’s capital, Raleigh, there is a plethora of fields and facilities for most any sport you can think of, according to Ryan Smith, director of communications for the Greater Raleigh CVB. “Greater Raleigh is a sports planner’s dream, with world-class venues and first-rate hotels in a naturally beautiful region that is centrally located, easily accessible and affordable.”
One such venue is the RBC Center, home to the National Hockey League’s Carolina Hurricanes, which won the Stanley Cup in 2006. The 19,700-seat facility hosted the 2008 NCAA Men’s first- and second-round Basketball Championships to sold-out crowds; the events generated a $5.1 million economic impact for the city, according to Smith. Wake Med Soccer Park and Country Course, a 150-acre, multi-use complex, hosted the 2009 NCAA Men’s College Cup. The USA Baseball National Training Complex in nearby Cary, featuring four Major League Baseball (MLB)-regulation baseball fields, hosted the 2009 USA Baseball Tournament of Stars. Cary is also home to the WRAL Soccer Park, which features a 3,200-seat, lighted soccer stadium, and Cary Tennis Park offers 30 tennis courts. In addition to local sports fields, the Raleigh Convention Center, which opened in the fall of 2008, offers 500,000 square feet of meeting and event space. The center has earned the Silver Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification from the U.S. Green Building Council, which recognizes when a construction project or building utilizes environmentally friendly building practices during construction or remodeling. For more information, visit www.VisitRaleigh.com.
“Charlotte takes pride in the many world-class sporting events that are held in our community throughout the year,” said Jeff Beaver, executive director, Charlotte Regional Sports Commission. “Incredible support from the corporate community, an exceptional spirit of volunteerism and top-notch facilities all make the execution of these events a reality.” The “Queen City’s” facilities range from the Bank of America Stadium, a 72,500-seat, open-air stadium designed for football in Uptown, to the Charlotte Sports Center, a state-of-the-art indoor sports facility that is the largest private multipurpose athletic facility in the state with 75,000 square feet of space to accommodate indoor soccer, inline hockey, basketball, volleyball and more. The Charlotte Convention Center is also available for sports events with 850,000 square feet of space, including 280,000 square feet of contiguous exhibit space. For more information, visit www.charlottesports.org.
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Greensboro is the “heart of North Carolina” and that’s what helps make it a premier location for your next sporting event, according to Gail C. Murphy, director of marking and communications for the Greensboro Area CVB. “With our plethora of fields and facilities, major interstate access and the fact that Greensboro is located in the middle of the East Coast, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better place to host a sporting event,” she said. Greensboro can host sports ranging from track and field and basketball to figure skating and golf. Irwin Belk Track and Field Complex offers a state-of-the-art Mondo surface and a seating capacity for 23,000, and the pavilion at the Greensboro Coliseum Complex features more than 150,000 square feet of event space. The Greensboro Sportsplex boasts eight basketball courts and the Bryan Park Golf Course offers 36 holes of championship golf along with a golf practice and a learning facility.
Greensboro Coliseum Complex and the Joseph S. Koury Convention Center at the Sheraton Greensboro Hotel at Four Seasons offer more than 430,000 square feet of combined space. The coliseum includes the War Memorial Auditorium with seating for 2,400, while the convention center includes more than 70 individual meeting rooms. For more information, visit www.GreensboroNC.org.
The nearby city of High Point has an “outstanding parks and recreation department that has a great relationship with High Point CVB,” according to Nancy Bowman, marketing and communications manager for the CVB. “Both partner well together to bring sporting groups to the city.” High Point offers plenty of venues for soccer, baseball, boat drags and races, tennis and swimming—including Phillips Park Soccer Complex, Oak Park Festival Park, J. Brooks Reitzel Tennis Center and High Point City Lake Park and Pool. For more information, visit www.HighPoint.org.
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“Our destination has what most sports groups look for: affordability, great venues, variety of accommodations, attractions, restaurants and the Atlantic Ocean,” said Roy Edmondson, sports sales manager, Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce/CVB. The expanded and renovated Myrtle Beach Convention Center offers sports groups 402 adjacent guest rooms, a 100,000-square-foot exhibit hall, an 18,000-square-foot grand ballroom and on-site parking for 1,400. Other fresh sporting venues are also coming online, including the Doug Shaw Memorial Stadium that opened in 2009 as a field venue capable of hosting all Olympic track and field events and Grand Park, being developed in South Myrtle Beach with a projected spring 2010 opening that will feature seven lighted baseball/softball “Field Turf” fields, two lighted Little League fields, three multipurpose fields and two indoor basketball courts. For more information, visit www.visitmyrtlebeach.com.
The Columbia Riverbanks Region—consisting of the city of Columbia and Lexington and Richland counties—has the vibrancy of an emerging metropolis but maintains its Southern charm, said Nicole Smith, director of media relations and publications for the Columbia CVB. “Something to look forward to in the Riverbanks Region is being outdoors. You can choose to spend time participating in one of many outdoor sporting activities or just browsing though a unique museum or antique store.” Columbia is home to a number of annual sports events and features a wide range of facilities, including the American Cheer X-Treme, a 20,000-square-foot cheerleading and tumble facility, and the Colonial Life Arena, the largest arena in the state with 18,000 seats. For more information, visit www.columbiacvb.com.
Kingsport’s history is just as vibrant as its sports scene, according to Frank Lett, associate executive director for the Kingsport CVB. “Our city has a rich history in grassroots youth sports events, hosting nearly 60 youth national championships since 1980. We’re convenient, affordable and have first-class facilities.”
Buck Van Huss Dome, which was renovated in 2005, has hosted numerous AAU Boys’ and Girls’ Basketball National Championships over the years, as well as the AAU Wrestling Spring Youth Nationals in 2009. Eastman Park at Horsecreek features six soccer fields and hosted 75 teams competing in the 2008 Appalachian Fall Festival Soccer Tournament. Eastman Recreation Park has four baseball/softball fields and Domtar Park has eight; both have hosted AAU, USSSA and AAA events. Hunter Wright Stadium features a minor league baseball field and can accommodate up to 2,000 fans. Other area sports venues include J. Fred Johnson Stadium, with a regulation-sized turf football field that hosts the Kingsport 7-on-7 Football Nationals each year, and Cattails Golf Course with 18 championship holes. In addition, Meadowview Marriott Resort and Conference Center features 87,000 square feet of meeting and exhibit space. For more information, visit www.VisitKingsport.com.
Since 1996 the city of Memphis has made large strides in transforming itself into an up-and-coming sports destination, according to destination officials. Memphis now boasts a minor league baseball park, AutoZone Park, that seats 14,384, and FedExForum, an 805,850-square-foot, state-of-the-art basketball arena that seats 18,500. These facilities complement the city’s college football, basketball, professional hockey, auto racing, golf and tennis opportunities as well. And to top it off, a vibrant nightlife and music scene will also keep athletes busy during down time. For more information, visit www.memphistravel.com.
The city of Nashville has hosted everything from the Country Music Marathon to the SEC Women’s Basketball and SEC/BIG EAST Invitational. The city also has a list of impressive sports facilities, said destination officials, including the Sommet Center with seating for up to 20,000; LP Field, home to the NFL’s Tennessee Titans; and the Nashville Speedway, a 1.33-mile, D-shaped track celebrating its 10th anniversary in 2010. For more information, www.nashvillesports.com.
When it comes to planning your next major sporting event, Knoxville should be the only place you consider, said Jennifer Morris, sports sales manager for the Knoxville Tourism and Sports Corp. “Located in the geographical center of the eastern United States and being situated at the crossroads of U.S. Interstates 40 and 75 puts Knoxville within a day’s drive of half the nation’s population,” she said. “That, mixed with Knoxville’s big-city atmosphere and small-town charm, makes it a perfect place for events of 20 to 20,000 people.”
The Knoxville Convention Center and the Knoxville Expo Center each offer more than 120,000 square feet of space, while the 81-acre Chilhowee Park features multi-use space that includes more than 57,000 square feet of newly renovated exhibition space and 72,000 square feet of covered, open-air pavilions. World’s Fair Park can accommodate most any large, outdoor event, Moore said, noting that the park has 185,000 square feet of space on two lawns and an amphitheater with seating for more than 1,000. In addition to being one of the nation’s premier basketball facilities, the University of Tennessee’s Thompson-Boling Assembly Center offers more than 400,000 square feet of space and seating for more than 22,000 people. Sports events in 2009 generated approximately $35 million, and they are projected to exceed $40 million in 2010, according to Morris. For more information, visit www.Knoxville.org.
Northern Virginia is home to Fairfax County, which boasts first-rate facilities capable of hosting numerous sporting events, including Hoop Magic Sports Academy, Reston SkateQuest and regional parks. The county’s location is also key, said Eric Kulczycky, national sales manager, Visit Fairfax. Located in the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States, the county is minutes from Washington, D.C., and about 50 percent of the nation’s population is within a day’s drive. For overnight athletes and their families, the county offers 100 hotels, from economy to Four-Star luxury properties. For more information, visit www.fxva.com.
Oceanfront accommodations and family fun activities help make Virginia Beach a premier destination for sports events and planners, according to Buddy Wheeler, sports marketing coordinator for Virginia Beach Sports Marketing. “Virginia Beach’s history and reputation for hosting high level and successful events is well known, and we have a full-time event manager who assists with the operations and planning process for all of our guests,” he said.
Virginia Beach SportsPlex, featuring a turf field and seating for 10,000 fans, has hosted NCAA Division II Men’s and Women’s Soccer Championships and USA Rugby Collegiate Championships. The USA Field Hockey National Training Center, featuring two international regulation field hockey turf fields, hosts local, regional and state field hockey events, including the FIH Four Nation Tournament and the USA Field Hockey Futures Championship. Expected to open this fall, Virginia Beach Fieldhouse will include indoor turf fields for lacrosse, soccer and field hockey, as well as a multipurpose indoor sports floor for basketball and volleyball. Virginia Beach Convention Center can accommodate both sports events and meetings, Wheeler said. The facility includes an expo hall with 150,000 square feet, as well as 38,000 square feet of banquet space and an additional 27,000 square feet of meeting space. The convention center has hosted gymnastics, cheer and dance, field hockey and judo, among others sports, and later this year will host the USA Track and Field Annual Meeting and the USA Gymnastics Trampoline and Tumbling Championship. For more information, visit www.vbsports.com.
The Hampton Roads Convention Center in nearby Hampton offers an adjacent 295-room Embassy Suites for sports groups on top of 344,000 total square feet of flexible space. The center has hosted volleyball tournaments, indoor field hockey, dance competitions, and trampoline and tumbling meets, among other events, said Kris Smith, group sales manager. The center shares a campus with the 84,000-square-foot Hampton Coliseum as well. For more information, visit www.thehrcc.com.
Roanoke Valley is nestled between the Blue Ride Parkway and the Appalachian Trail, which offer natural settings for sports events, said Kelly-Burd Adams, director of sales at the Roanoke Valley CVB. The valley area has an array of venues that attract national organizations and youth sports, such as the NCAA Division III football, softball, volleyball, lacrosse and basketball championships in Salem. A multitude of hotels within close proximity to playing sites is also a draw for events, Burd Adams said. For more information, visit www.visitroanokeva.com.
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Southern Virginia is home to the Smith River Sports Complex in Martinsville. The multipurpose complex started with soccer but has developed into offering much more, according to city officials. The complex now includes two championship FieldTurf synthetic fields with Musco Sports Lighting, wireless electronic scoreboards and fixed seating for 250 at each field. Three additional full-sized hybrid grass fields with lights and irrigation, a practice field, concessions, picnic pavilions and more are nearby. For more information, visit www.southernvirginiasports.com.
Charleston, W.Va., combines rugged mountain scenery, spectacular waterways and first-rate accommodations with a convenient, safe and friendly environment, said Samantha Carney, sports convention sales manager for the Charleston West Virginia CVB. The Charleston Civic Center boasts a 30,000-square-foot arena perfect for basketball, gymnastics, karate and more, she said. Other facilities include the Schoenbaum Stadium that seats 2,000 and the University of Charleston stadium that seats 18,600 and is equipped with Sportexe Momentum 51 turf to host football, soccer, and track and field events. For more information, visit www.charlestonwv.com.
“Rich with natural beauty and challenging terrain and a cool university culture, Greater Morgantown provides the ideal venue for sports and recreation,” said Dave Plevich, sports and special events manager for the Greater Morgantown CVB. The city is home to more than 50 miles of paved trails and an array of modern sports facilities, including four lighted baseball/softball fields, professional horseshoe pitching courts, a 53,000-square-foot building adjacent to a 50,000-square-foot Field Turf arena, a 28,000-square-foot strength and conditioning fitness center and more. For more information, visit www.tourmorgantown.com.