Peter Francesconi 2014-07-03 04:10:16
LAWTON-FORT SILL, OKLAHOMA Discover Your Sport in Southwest Oklahoma TOURNAMENT ORGANIZERS LOOK FOR a number of characteristics when seeking a place to hold their events. Among other things, they want convenience: a location that offers everything players, fans and family members need to stay, play and enjoy. They want excellent sports facilities so their players can compete in the best venues and fans can enjoy watching them. They also want accessibility: a place that not only is easy to get to, but easy to get around in once you’re there. They want to keep costs low and make their event affordable for all. What tournament and event owners and organizers want is Lawton Fort Sill, Oklahoma. “One of the great things about Lawton Fort Sill is that we’re a large city with a small-town ambience,” says Tanna Vu, the tourism director for the Lawton-Fort Sill Chamber of Commerce. “We have a lot of things that you’d find in Dallas or Oklahoma City, but here, it’s simply not as hectic— or as expensive. You will not find a place with better hospitality.” Recently, a new hotel and convention center opened in the city, which offers the best in accommodations. City-wide, nearly 1,700 rooms are available. Restaurants run the gamut in terms of cuisine and price, so visitors can find exactly what fits their budgets and tastes—everything from your Favorite chain restaurants to those hidden treasures the locals know and share. The city is convenient to get to, and once there, everything is close (you can be across town in 15 to 20 minutes), including access to the sports venues. More and more groups and associations are finding the Lawton Fort Sill the perfect fit for their sporting adventures. From baseball and softball to soccer, archery, track & field and more, Lawton Fort Sill— and the partnerships it has with surrounding communities—offers venues that will suit almost any event looking for a convenient, friendly, well-maintained home. Baseball and Softball When it comes to the diamond sports, Lawton Fort Sill offers excellent facilities, including the McMahon Softball Complex, which features four lighted 300-foot fields that all face in the same direction. “It’s something that’s pretty unique in sports,” says Reginald Seaton, the sports and recreation administrator for the City of Lawton, which manages the complex. “No matter what field you play on, players all have the same advantages—or disadvantages— of the sun and wind.” The McMahon Complex sees action all year, Seaton says, with both community softball league play along with ASAsanctioned tournaments, including national championships. For instance, toward the end of July, the ASA Girls 16UB Southern Nationals will be held at McMahon. Another Lawton softball facility is the four-field Ahlschlager Softball Complex. For baseball, there’s the East Side Baseball Complex and the Grandview Baseball Complex, both of which offer four diamonds. All venues have seating for fans at each field. For tournament owners, says Seaton, the city has many years of experience in hosting and arranging events. And the Lawton Park & Recreation Department takes meticulous care of its venues. Soccer Just east of Lawton is the Big Green Soccer Complex, which, with 34 fields, certainly lives up to its name. Big Green can accommodate tournaments of any size and has been the venue for three state soccer tourneys in recent years. On a typical Saturday, 90 games can be played. The complex includes plenty of parking and a clubhouse that offers classroom space upstairs. Big Green can easily accommodate other field sports including lacrosse and football. It is getting a reputation for holding cross-country running events, too; last fall, Big Green hosted a Lone Star Conference cross-country event. Golf Golf is popular, too, with two courses—the Fort Sill Golf Course and the Lawton Country Club Golf Course— that have held special events, including a recent 5A State Golf tournament. One of the newer sports venues in the area is the Elmer Thomas Park Disc Golf Course, a challenging course for disc golfers in terms of accuracy and length (with seven holes between 300 and 400 feet and one greater than 400 feet). Rodeo One of the top family events in the state is the Lawton Rangers PRCA Rodeo, which takes place each August at the L.O. Ranch Arena and features more than 400 of the top cowboys and cowgirls competing in barrel racing, roping, steer wrestling, bronc riding, bull riding and more. The L.O. Ranch Arena also plays host to rodeos for non-professionals, including Oklahoma High School Rodeo Association events. Additional Sports Venues Lawton Fort Sill has a partnership with Cameron University, which offers a turf field, the 1,800-seat Aggie Gym that is home to the Cameron basketball and volleyball teams, and the eight-court Streich- Henry Tennis Complex, home to the nationally ranked Cameron men’s and women’s tennis teams. Indoor Events The Great Plains Coliseum on the Comanche County Fairgrounds is a 12,000 square-foot multi-purpose arena that can handle pretty much anything—archery, basketball, wrestling, rodeos and more. They specialize in agriculture shows and events that require indoor display space. The facility has fixed seating for 2,500 and, depending on the event, portable chairs can accommodate up to 1,400 more fans. “The coliseum is incredibly flexible,” Vu says. “The portable wood floor makes it great for basketball.” The coliseum has meeting rooms, locker rooms and shower facilities, a banquet kitchen, concessions, an electronic scoreboard and more. “Archery is another sport that has been growing in popularity,” Vu says, “and the coliseum is the place to shoot. We held an archery tournament here last November, and it’s on the calendar again for this year. We hope to attract a regional or state tournament. Last year, two Lawton schools made it to the nationals in archery.” Just north of the coliseum is the 80,000 square-foot Great Plains Exposition Center which hosts livestock shows, concerts, car and truck shows and more. Lawton Fort Sill has held bowling tournaments at the 24-lane Hog Pin Bowl. The facility has digital score-keepers, party rooms and a full restaurant and bar service. Off the Field “One of the great things about the Lawton Fort Sill area is the rich history and culture—which makes it perfect for athletes and their families when not competing,” Vu says. “Our Discovery Trail is one of the most popular features.” In September, the Discovery Trail will add its ninth attraction, the new Medicine Park, Aquarium and Natural Sciences facility. Most of the Discovery Trail attractions are free; three have a very minimal cost. “The Discovery Trail features everything from Native American history to how the pioneers lived in the old West, to the military tradition of Fort Sill, and so much more,” Vu says. The Museum of the Great Plains offers special collections and exhibits that spotlight the cultural and natural history of the Great Plains. The Comanche National Museum & Cultural Center hosts national traveling American Indian exhibits, along with a detailed history of the Comanche people. They currently have an exhibit featuring the history of the World War II Comanche code-talkers. Another location on the Discovery Trail is the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge, a drive-through or hike-through habitat for bison, elk, deer and longhorn cattle. There’s plenty of shopping, including a mall right in the heart of downtown that contains dozens of stores and shops. Nearly every area of Lawton features unique shopping opportunities as well as the favorite big-box stores. Getting to the area is easy; the Lawton- Fort Sill Regional Airport has direct flights from Dallas and other major hubs. Oklahoma City is an hour’s drive away. “Every year, we host thousands of visitors who participate in sports in our outstanding facilities and enjoy our hospitality,” Vu says. “We’re happy to help event owners and tournament organizers in any and every way we can— from helping to prepare bids, to arranging accommodations, to finding the right facilities and working with those venues. We like to customize each event to make it special for the presenters. “We have such a unique, beautiful, family-friendly area here. It’s great to be able to show it off to athletes and fans of all ages.”
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