Andrew Cohen 2016-07-25 04:24:04
SOUTHEAST All Over the Map Destinations in the Southeast Can Do a Little (Actually, a Lot) of Everything THE SOUTHEAST IS CHARACTERIZED BY a subtropical climate yet still features wintry mountainous regions. Its sports offerings are similarly varied, from baseball, football and tennis to water and bicycle sports. The Great Outdoors A homegrown event that exceeded everyone’s expectations, The Wildwood Games in three years has become a powerhouse attraction for the Columbia County (Georgia) Convention & Visitors Bureau. A multi-sport event comprising a trail run, the USA Cycling Marathon By Andrew Cohen Mountain Bike National Championships, BMX races, a skateboarding competition and disc golf, The Wildwood Games also draws interest from non-competitors who enjoy its outdoor vibe. “When we created the Wildwood Games, we had two distinct goals in mind,” says Randy DuTeau, executive director of the Columbia County Convention & Visitors Bureau. “The first was to host an event that would generate economic impact through athletes coming to the area to train and, ultimately, to participate in the Games. The other was to create a unique and high-profile platform to promote our abundant natural resources.” Bentonville, Arkansas, is becoming a hub for cycling, whether the Natural State Criterium or the Slaughter Pen Jam, a three-day festival for riders of all ages and skill levels. Slaughter Pen Jam’s festivities begin on Friday evening on the Downtown Square in Bentonville. The festival hosts an official Arkansas NICA race on Saturday morning and Arkansas Mountain Bike Championship Series Races on Sunday. In November, Bentonville hosts the International Mountain Bike Association’s World Summit, a quadrennial event, and more than 8,000 people representing 43 countries are expected to attend. “Our trail network has grown very large,” says Luke Charpentier, sports sales manager at Visit Bentonville. “It’s definitely something that has made people want to come to Bentonville.” Chattanooga, Tennessee, is making itself the home of the Ironman. The Sunbelt Bakery Ironman 70.3 Chattanooga took place in May, while the Little Debbie IRONMAN Chattanooga presented by McKee Foods is scheduled for September. In 2017, Chattanooga will again host both events, along with the IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship. “First and foremost, our community embraces it,” says Tim Morgan, president of the Chattanooga Sports Committee, in explaining the fit with his city. “Second, we provide a very compact package: You can stay downtown, where you can walk to restaurants, attractions and entertainment, as well as to the transition area. We shuttle people to our swim start, but in essence you can spend the entire weekend here and never visit your car.” North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, seems to specialize in non-traditional sports, from beach volleyball to Ultimate to the International Quidditch Festival. “We’ve had a signature of getting kind of quirky events,” concedes George DuRant, vice president of tourism development for the North Myrtle Beach Convention & Visitors Bureau, but there’s nothing quirky about the “highly organized hospitality and accommodations services we provide. We make sure, with the 15,000 rental units we have in North Myrtle Beach, and another 80,000 in the greater grand strand area, that we’re able to help with arrangements for lodging when people choose this as their destination.” Attractive Venues This spring, Columbia, South Carolina, opened a Minor League Baseball stadium that serves as the home of the relocated Savannah (Georgia) Sand Gnats. The $37 million Spirit Communications Park hosts the Class-A Columbia Fireflies, but was designed with a deeper right field so that soccer and football games can play on a regulation field along the first-base line. “The park is just fantastic,” says Scott Powers, executive director of the Columbia Regional Sports Council. “We’re talking to the NCAA and other conferences about opportunities for many different sports we can bring into that facility.” The baseball stadium is the area’s fourth, after Capital City Stadium, renovated in 1991; Founders Park, built for the University of South Carolina’s baseball program in 2009; and Lexington County Baseball Stadium, home of the Lexington County Blowfish, an amateur baseball team in the collegiate Coastal Plain League. Winston-Salem, North Carolina, meanwhile, is a tennis hotbed, annually hosting the Winston-Salem Open. The Winston-Salem Open typically gets 30 to 40 of the top 80 men’s tennis players, who come every year to the Wake Forest Tennis Complex to gear up for the last grand slam tournament on the schedule. “It gives us fantastic exposure, not only nationally but on an international level,” says Bonny Bernat, sports events sales manager at Visit Winston-Salem. “To be able to have an event of that stature with the city in the name, it’s just great exposure for us as a destination.” Tried and True Parker Medley, sports sales director for Visit Knoxville, says his city’s brand-new sports commission has a lot of potential events in the pipeline along with a small number of established events, from Battle at Rocky Top, one of the biggest youth football tournaments in the country, to the Ozone Invitational, a gymnastics event that for 14 years has helped kick off the new year. But a group that has successfully held the World Championships of Cornhole sees itself as able to do pretty much anything. “With all the facilities that we have to offer, and our geographical location — we’re a day’s drive from half the U.S. population — we can pull people from all sorts of regions to meet here and play,” Medley says. In Georgia, continuous improvements to the Dalton Convention Center and the Mashburn Arena in particular have gotten attention, but there’s a lot going on outside, too. Dalton’s Heritage Point Park, a 10-field complex, has hosted the men’s and women’s world championships of the Softball Players Association, an organization devoted to senior softball, ages 55 and up. “It’s a tournament that we’re really proud to be a part of,” says Brett Huske, director of tourism for the Dalton Visitors Bureau, “and actually, the tournament is the most entertaining thing to watch. Sporting events love coming to Dalton, because it is the perfect size.” Huntsville, Alabama, will host The Forrest Wood Cup (the world championship of bass fishing) in August, but meanwhile, the Huntsville Aquatics Center is in the midst of an exciting expansion (including spectator seating for 1,200) to be completed in summer of2017. “Our parks and recreation department believes the project will make Huntsville the only city in the South with two Olympic-size pools in the same complex,” says Don Dukemineer, convention sales manager for the Huntsville/Madison County Convention & Visitors Bureau. “Once construction is complete and the facility is ready to go, we will work to bring more regional and national swim meets to Huntsville. Having two pools will allow more swimmers to compete, which in turn offers us the chance to host larger events.” With 21 soccer fields, 12 lighted baseball diamonds, two football fields and a gymnasium, Chappapeela Sports Complex offers the chance to host major sports tournaments in Louisiana’s Tangipahoa Parish. “Although local teams play throughout the week, more family, friends and supporters come on the weekends for bigger tournaments,” says Carla Tate, executive director of the Tangipahoa Parish Convention and Visitors Bureau. “In fact, we are fortunate to host the Louisiana Allstate Sugar Bowl Lacrosse Classic for 2016 and 2017. When these major tournaments come to our area, we see a large surge in hotel rooms and restaurant visits.” On schedule for its July 29 grand opening, Georgia’s Rome Tennis Center at Berry College recently added eight USTA 36-foot courts for beginner players, bringing the total number of courts to 60. (The tennis center and downtown courts combine to create one of the South’s largest public tennis facilities, with 76 courts.) The new facility is fully accessible and will first host the award-winning, USTA Georgia-sanctioned Clocktower Classic Wheelchair Tennis Tournament July 29- 31. USTA Southern Junior Team Tennis Sectional Championships will be at the facility August 12-14. “Rome is geographically in the center of the USTA Southern section, which makes the Rome Tennis Center ideal to host sectional championships” says Ann Hortman, director of the Greater Rome Convention & Visitors Bureau’s Rome Sports Commission. “Other facilities in the south may be similar in size, but the game changer is location, location, location. Adaptive sports is a niche market we pride ourselves on, and the fact that our new tennis facility has no barriers for wheelchair tennis is an attribute that also sets us apart.” As the National Senior Games and Birmingham Prepare for 2017, SDMAsks: Why was the Third Bid a Charm? IN 2017, BIRMINGHAM, ALABAMA, WILL BE THE SITE of the National Senior Games. It had bid previously on the event (twice) before being named host the third time. For more insight into the site selection process and what made this partnership happen, Sports Destination Management spoke with Susan Hlavacek, director of events and programs for the National Senior Games Association (NSGA) and David Galbaugh, vice president of sports sales and marketing for the Greater Birmingham Convention & Visitors Bureau. SPORTS DESTINATION MANAGEMENT: What does NSGA look for when considering a host destination? SUSAN HLAVACEK: Ultimately, we’re looking for a mid-size city, a place that isn’t too large or too small. We’re also looking for a place where people will really wrap their arms around the event. You want the city involved and engaged about the people and the athletes who will be coming in. SDM: Has Birmingham hosted multi-sport events of this size previously? DAVID GALBAUGH: Birmingham hosted the National Veterans Golden Age Games in 2009. That started it all and got us into the realm of the senior games. SDM: Had Birmingham bid on any of the prior Senior Games, or was 2017 the first? GALBAUGH: We had, twice. The third time was the charm. SDM: What finally made the bid a success? HLAVACEK: Venues, really. They now had the CrossPlex, which is a beautiful facility; we’ll be holding our volleyball and swimming events there. GALBAUGH: We also had a new Westin hotel and we had built an uptown entertainment district on the BJCC (Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex) campus, and that really pushed us over the top. SDM: Birmingham has noted an expansion of existing facilities being the key to its successful bid. What does the NSGA take into consideration when it comes to facilities? HLAVACEK: You’re not really going to find a city that has all the venues you need within walking distance of one another, and of hotels and restaurants. We really do try to get those venues as close as possible to one another, but in most cities, for example, you’re not going to find a golf course downtown next to the hotels. You have to be willing to branch out. The one thing we do need in a central location is our Athlete Village, which is like a hub for everyone. That will be at the BJCC, and we think Birmingham will do a really nice job with that. SDM: How many visitors will the Senior Games bring into the city? HLAVACEK: We estimate about 23,000. That includes all our athletes, plus their family and friends. SDM: What is the anticipated economic impact? HLAVACEK: $35 million. SDM: Where will the 2019 Senior Games be held? HLAVACEK: Albuquerque, New Mexico. SDM: Birmingham will be hosting the World Games in 2021, another multisport event. What were the main considerations for organizers? GALBAUGH: They tend to go into places where you don’t have to build facilities and incur a lot of additional expense. This is a different scenario from the Olympics, where you’d have to build stadiums or venues. Clearly, the Olympics are great, but you’d put in a big investment. What the World Games really loved about Birmingham was that we already had everything here they needed and we were ready to host. SDM: How many visitors does the city anticipate for World Games? GALBAUGH: We expect 100,000 visitors over the course of the 11 days the Games will run. SDM: Any idea how many volunteers will be needed for that size event? GALBAUGH: For volunteers, I don’t know for sure; certainly, in the thousands. SDM: What is the estimated economic impact? GALBAUGH: $250 million SDM: Will Birmingham continue to pursue multi-sport events? GALBAUGH: Once we get these two events under our belt, we’re going to look at all the opportunities again. I want the city to become a multi-sport destination for sure.
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