5 Venues to Watch for in 2016

A new year means new venues and facilities for planners to have a ball with. We’ve put together a sampling of what 2016 will bring. Be sure to check out our annual Sports Facilities Guide, coming out in March, for a complete listing of where to plan events this year. The Ripken Experience — Pigeon Forge What does $22.5 million and the backing of baseball’s “Iron Man” bring you? One of the finest facilities you’ll ever see—worth an estimated $40 million annually in sports tourism dollars in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, on the footsteps of the Great Smoky Mountains. Featuring six fields modeled after professional ballparks—including Oriole Park at Camden Yards, where Cal Ripken starred in Baltimore—The Ripken Experience also has elite training equipment and batting cages, as well as a two-level, 14,000-sq.-ft. clubhouse overlooking the playing grounds. First pitch is slated for March 9. Jonathan Byrd’s Fieldhouse and Indoor Sports Facility at Grand Park This promises to be a grand year for Grand Park in Westfield, Indiana. Jonathan Byrd’s Fieldhouse, an 88,000-sq.-ft. indoor facility targeting basketball, volleyball and futsal, opened in early January and hosted the Futsal Indy Winter Cup Jan. 9-10. Each court comes with a high-definition camera to simulcast games. Following suit this summer at the 400-acre sports complex is a 370,000-sq.-ft indoor facility with three fields allowing for year-round soccer tournaments. It includes a 30,000-sq.-ft. mezzanine concourse and a 3,500-sq.-ft. meeting space. John Venezia Community Park On the heels of last year’s OTC Velodrome opening, Colorado Springs is anticipating the opening of John Venezia Community Park this summer. With three soccer fields, six tennis courts, four pickle ball courts and two basketball courts, the park will be a match for a planner looking to put on a smaller-scale youth event. Never a destination to stand still, Colorado Springs is also in the midst of a fundraising drive for Scott Hall Field of Dreams, an ambitious complex set to include baseball, football, lacrosse and soccer fields, as well an indoor facility that could accommodate volleyball, basketball and perhaps an ice rink. Sarasota BMX Supercross While not technically a new venue, the country’s oldest continuously running BMX track is undergoing a complete renovation and rebranding. EliteTrax Inc. is crafting an 8-meter ramp needed for supercross that will draw national and international events once the Olympic-caliber facility is up and running in May. Global SX Events Inc. has already made Sarasota, Florida, its new headquarters, and is bringing with it the 2016 UCI BMX Supercross World Cup finals it manages in October.