This year’s crop of new venues is indicative of the continued growth the sports tourism industry enjoys. Some of the world’s biggest and best facilities of their kind have already debuted or soon will be. Whether you are planning events involving traditional sports or are on the cutting end of nontraditional or new Olympic sports (skateboarding, anyone?), these complexes will have you dreaming of events for years to come.
Panama City Beach Sports Complex; Panama City Beach, FloridaThe long wait for Chris O’Brien and the Visit Panama City Beach team is nearly over. The 210-acre facility, due to open this July with its first event coming in August, includes nine turf fields and four natural grass surfaces—well-suited to expand the destination’s reach into soccer, lacrosse and flag football. General Manager J.D. Wood, whose connections in the industry are speeding along the booking process for 2020 already, is perhaps the facility’s greatest asset.
Rocky Mount Sports Complex; Rocky Mount, North CarolinaFeatured on HBO’s “Real Sports” more than a year before it opened, this facility is now fully operational. It includes six youth baseball fields, five softball/baseball combo fields and an eight-field soccer/multipurpose complex. USAAA, Atlantic Coast Baseball and Triple Crown Sports are among the organizations working with the complex.
Hillsborough County Tournament SportsPlex; Tampa, FloridaThis 15-field new complex (pictured at top) in Tampa, Florida, hosted its first event in December. Almost a year after the SportsPlex’s debut date (Nov. 28-30, to be exact), USA Field Hockey will bring its National Hockey Festival there. All told, officials estimate a $7.3 million economic impact in 2019, with that number growing to $25 million in the plex’s fifth year.
St. Elizabeths East Entertainment and Sports Arena, Washington, D.C.Having opened in September 2018, this venue will host the WNBA’s Washington Mystics and the Capital City Go-Go of the NBA G League. It’s also attracted boxing and esports in Congress Heights, a part of Washington previously in need of business development.
ERIEBANK Sports Park; Erie, PennsylvaniaTwo ice rinks have been added to the facility as part of the first round of updates. Until the recent upgrades, the city had two usable ice surfaces. Now, the venerable Erie Sports Commission has the ability to target more youth hockey events.
Lauridsen Skatepark; Des Moines, IowaAt more than 65,000 square feet of skate-able terrain, this project (pictured above) is projected to be the second biggest skatepark in the county and largest in the Midwest. The timing could not be better for the summertime opening, one year prior to the 2020 Olympics, which will feature skateboarding as a sport. Ryan Vogt, national sales manager at Catch Des Moines, is already planning to work with USA Skateboarding to bring in national and international competitions.
Southland Athletic and Event Center; Lynwood, IllinoisMore than 41,000 square feet of portable wood court flooring has been installed here, making the complex (pictured at top) home to the largest continuous portable wood court floor in the Western Hemisphere and the second largest in the world. This year’s North American Chinese Basketball Association championships are already scheduled to take advantage of the new space, which can hold 10 basketball courts and 14 volleyball courts. Joel Koester, sports market manager for the Chicago Southland CVB, anticipates filling the 2020 calendar by mid-2019 with a mix of basketball, volleyball, cheer and other events. “The economic impact that this one facility will have on the entire Chicago Southland region is quite substantial,” he says.
Training for Life Campus; Jefferson City, MissouriThis 32,000-sq.-ft. building includes a sports arena that features indoor basketball and volleyball courts, space for free health screenings, multimedia conference rooms, a health and fitness center, and administrative offices for Special Olympics Missouri and Special Olympics Missouri-Central Region. First conceived in 2016, the facility became a reality in late 2018.
Hoover Metropolitan Complex; Hoover, AlabamaThe final piece of this game-changing $80 million complex outside Birmingham, Alabama, is nearing completion. Five multipurpose fields and 16 tennis courts are schedule to debut in late January or early February. Those new playing sites are in addition to the 155,000-sq.-ft. indoor sports and event center, Finley Center, which opened in 2017, and five NCAA-sized diamonds that opened last year.
Fox Cities Champion Center; Grand Chute, Wisconsin
Scheduled to open in Fall 2019, the 164,000-sq.-ft. Champion Center will feature an ice rink with seating for up to 1,000, a fieldhouse with four basketball courts or eight volleyball courts and a seasonal arena that can be an ice rink or four basketball courts or six volleyball courts. A study commissioned by the Fox Cities CVB estimates that the facility will have an estimated economic impact of up to $8.9 million in the first year.