Puerto Rico Shows Off Its Versatility

Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico has tropical climate and beautiful beaches, making it a natural hot spot for outdoor events. But (shh!) rain and wind get in the way occasionally. Such was the case when the Connect Sports Executive Advisory Board met in San Juan in March. But the weather provided Oscar Santiago, Meet Puerto Rico’s national sales manager of sports and entertainment, a chance to show off the island’s versatility. While a planned helicopter tour was grounded, the attendees were treated to a walk-through of Puerto Rico Convention Center. In the end, the indoor experience may have been more worthwhile for attendees. Mark Koski, CMAA, director of sports, events and development at the National Federation of State High School Associations, admits he was surprised how impressive the facility was. “It’s a phenomenal destination,” Koski says. “I look forward to holding one of our meetings or events there.” That’s music to the ears of Santiago.

Puerto Rico Surprises

Typically, Santiago sells Puerto Rico’s 80-some-degree temperatures and accessibility (it’s a two-hour flight from Atlanta and Miami, and an easy trip from Washington, D.C., too). Both played a role in hosting the 2013 World Baseball Classic and the PGA Tour establishing the Puerto Rico Open. Yet as Puerto Rico continues to grow as a sports destination, it will need to showcase its other strengths. For instance, did you know the New York Rangers played an exhibition hockey game against the Florida Panthers at Jose Miguel Agrelot Coliseum in 2006—the first NHL event in the Caribbean? The island regularly hosts early-season men’s and women’s college basketball tournaments too. Say, those are indoor sports, aren’t they? While Isla Verde—one of San Juan’s two busiest tourism districts (Old San Juan is the other) and home of the InterContinental hotel where Connect Sports stayed—is 10 minutes from the airport, Santiago says it’s worth venturing outside San Juan. Each of Puerto Rico’s coasts has a different vibe, best seen in the culture and food, notes Santiago. “There’s more to Puerto Rico than San Juan,” he says. Yes, there are great facilities for soccer and baseball. But the board found the biggest revelation about Puerto Rico is the surprises it has to offer. “It’s definitely turning into an attractive destination for sporting events,” says Tom Pingel, USA Volleyball’s senior director of indoor events and high performance.