Michael Popke 2015-02-20 05:34:59
LEWISVILLE, TEXAS Sports Leading the Way in Lewisville BACK IN THE 1990s, the idea of Lewisville, Texas, hosting mega soccer competitions, swim meets and baseball tournaments was virtually unthinkable. That is no longer the case. “Lewisville is experiencing a surge in redevelopment,” says Carlos Hernandez, tourism sports sales coordinator for the Lewisville Convention & Visitors Bureau. “With its location at the intersection of two major highways, Lewisville is constantly evolving.” Indeed, today the Dallas/Fort Worth suburb is one of the fastest-growing cities in the United States, according to recent U. S Census Bureau data. Lewisville’s population hovers around 100,000, and the city is home to several dozen sports fields, a new natatorium considered among the finest in North Texas, and regulation- size basketball and volleyball courts — all thanks in large part to the commitment by city officials to take advantage of Lewisville’s prime location in a major metropolitan hub. In his “State of the City” address last year, Deputy Mayor Pro Tem Leroy Vaughn credited Toyota of Lewisville Railroad Park — a 269-acre multipurpose facility that opened in 2009 and hosts soccer, baseball and football tournaments — for a “tremendous boost in sports tourism.” He added that sports tourism contributes to 10 percent of the city’s hotel traffic, and that figure is climbing. “We’re doing everything we can to market the city for conventions, meetings and, of course, sports,” says Hernandez, one of the CVB’s first employees when it was formed in 2005. “We’re seeing a tremendous return on investment with sports, and a big part of that has to do with our venues.” Venues, Venues and More Venues The Lewisville CVB’s website lists almost a dozen sports venues in and around the city, making it a fertile playground for sports event organizers and an outstanding destination to investigate, for those who are considering a new site. Topping the list of enviable facilities is the Westside Aquatic Center, which opened in late 2014 and is owned and operated by the Lewisville Independent School District. The 75,000-square-foot natatorium holds 1,200 spectators and boasts a 75-meter competition pool that can accommodate up to 36 lanes, plus two 1-meter and two 3-meter diving boards. In short, it’s ready for all things aquatic. “Swimming and diving is a new emerging market for us,” Hernandez says, adding that the complex is conveniently located minutes from Lewisville hotels, restaurants and shopping areas. Among the facility’s first significant events will be a USA Synchro Junior Olympic regional competition in late April. Basketball also finds home-court advantage in this area. Major basketball tournaments are held at The MAC (Multiple Athletic Complex) in Lewisville, as well as Swisher Courts in nearby Lake Dallas, as well as at Advantage Sports Complex, a sports training and competition facility in Carrollton. The MAC offers a total of 38,000 square feet and features four NBA-size hardwood basketball courts and seven regulation-size volleyball courts; Swisher Courts provides four basketball courts and six volleyball courts. Advantage Sports Complex, meanwhile, includes more than 100,000 square feet of space housing a total of six full-size regulation hardwood basketball courts, 12 hardwood volleyball courts and six hardwood futsal courts. These facilities continue to bump up the number of volleyball tournaments hosted in Lewisville and the surrounding communities, and Hernandez anticipates the futsal option at Advantage Sports Complex eventually will make the area a destination spot in that emerging sport, as well. Popular in Europe and South America, futsal is catching on in pockets of the United States as an alternate version of indoor soccer — albeit one played on a hard surface with no walls or boards. “This is a new concept here but, in my opinion, it will become the new indoor soccer,” Hernandez says. Outdoor soccer has been alive and kicking in Lewisville for years. Between Lewisville Lake Park and Toyota of Lewisville Railroad Park, the city offers 16 fields, with another nine at the Bakersfield Complex in nearby Flower Mound, five more at Chinn Chapel Soccer Park in Flower Mound and an additional six at The Colony Five-Star Complex. As the second-largest youth soccer organization in Texas, the Greater Lewisville Area Soccer Association hosts several regional tournaments — sometimes at multiple facilities during the same time. “We very much favor partnering with other neighboring cities to bring big tournaments into the region,” Hernandez says, “because what’s good for the region is good for us.” Vital Partnerships Hernandez explains that the city partners with Flower Mound, The Colony, Plano and other neighboring communities for events to ensure that sports tourism visitors continue to enjoy and benefit from their experiences. Perhaps no relationship better exemplifies this notion of partnership than the one between Lewisville and Flower Mound, according to Hernandez — a town with multiple baseball fields but no hotels. So when the American Amateur Youth Baseball Association hosts its annual World Series for the sixth consecutive year at Lewisville Lake Park, Toyota of Lewisville Railroad Park and Bakersfield Complex in Flower Mound, players and their families settle in for productive seven-day stays in Lewisville during the two weeks in June and July. “It creates a fantastic economic impact for the region,” Hernandez says, who cites the sheer size and nature of the event — which attracts approximately 300 teams from all over the country — for creating a “festival atmosphere.” Leading the Way in Lewisville Lewisville also hosts other competitions, including lacrosse, bass fishing, water sports and football. Regardless of the activity, Hernandez and his team make it a priority to hold pre- and post-event meetings with tournament directors to ensure a successful stay, gain feedback and foster positive relations. “We like to see ourselves as a good marketing partner,” he says, adding that the weather in Lewisville cooperates, too. “We have tournaments all year-round,” Hernandez proudly proclaims. “Our good weather lends itself to good competition from January through December.” Lewisville is home to 22 hotels and over 2,000 rooms, most of them built within the past seven years or renovated within the past two years. A new SpringHill Suites is expected to open this summer, adding approximately 120 more rooms. Tournament hotels feature interior corridors, making them safer and more secure, especially for teams and other events with a large contingency of female athletes and/or youth athletes. Free breakfasts as part of the room rate are typical at most hotels in the area. (Find an event owner or team manager who doesn’t appreciate that bonus). “It’s important to have that amenity to attract quality tournaments,” Hernandez says. “Accommodations are key.” So are attractions, especially for young athletes and their families when they’re not at the fields, on the courts or in the pool. Known for its lake, Lewisville is surrounded by 9,000 protected acres of nature with 233 miles of shoreline. Lewisville Lake spans 29,000 acres, with an average depth of 25 feet — making it ideal for boating, water sports and fishing. In fact, the lake is officially known as the “Urban Bass Fishing Capital of Texas,” with large-mouth bass, white bass and hybrid white/striped bass in plentiful supply. Other leisure activities for teams during their down time include shopping, movies, bowling, video arcade games and water parks. Located just a short drive from Dallas/ Fort Worth International Airport, Lewisville also possesses historic charm in Old Town, a retail and arts hub featuring stores, restaurants and various special events. Old Town hosts several outdoor festivals, such as Western Days in September, a spring arts festival, and free concerts in the park on Tuesday nights in June and July. “A lot of cities in North Texas are moving forward and building more,” Hernandez says, referencing a suburban evolution that has created an infrastructure in North Texas to meet the increasing needs of tournament planners and participants. Lewisville, for one, is not done yet. “If we have another conversation like this in two years, we’ll be talking about lots of new things happening here,” Hernandez promises.
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