Destinations In The News: The West

Destinations In The News: The West

Bright Sunshine, Cool Venues & Warm Hospitality Make Western Destinations Shine

By Jennie Hanna

No matter where a group plans their next event, if they choose to head out to the Western region of the United States, they are destined to find at least one common denominator: plenty of sunshine.

“The Western region gives sports event planners and participants ideal weather, great facilities and tons of local support,” said Chris Huot, marketing and events specialist for the Bakersfield (Calif.) Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB).

Teri Olander, recreation administrator for the Boulder (Colo.) CVB wholeheartedly agreed. “The West has a more predictable—and playable—climate than other regions of the United States. It’s unusual to have long periods of rainy, overcast weather, making travel less of a worry for participants.”

For Darlene Matz, director of competitions and group travel for the Casper (Wyo.) Area CVB, the people help set the West above the rest when it comes to hosting sporting events. “In addition to the wide variety of sporting venues, we have volunteers throughout the community to help with major events held here,” she said. “The people in Casper enjoy hosting sporting events to show visitors what a great city we have.”

The West is also one of the most accessible and entertaining regions of the country, well suited to showing participants and fans a good time once all the competitions are over, according to Tim Haskell, sales and marketing specialist for the Henderson (Nev.) CVB. “The West is easily accessible from major highways that connect all the Western states, and Henderson is just a short distance from the world-renowned entertainment options offered on the Las Vegas Strip.”

No matter the sport or age group competing, the Western region has a field or facility to accommodate it, according to hospitality industry officials.

Following is an overview of several of the sports-friendly destinations in the region.


Anaheim/Orange County

With a population base of more than 20 million people in Southern California alone, the Golden State of California is one of the biggest draws for sporting events and sports event planners, said Elaine Cali, vice president of communications for the Anaheim/Orange County CVB. “Anaheim is the center of Southern California. And, in addition to our ideal weather, which boasts an average temperature of 72 degrees, we are the center of Orange County’s hospitality industry and have an excellent reputation of exceeding customer expectations,” Cali said.

In Anaheim, the American Sports Center served as home of the 2008 Olympic Gold Medal-winning USA Men’s National Volleyball Team and the Olympic Silver Medal-winning USA Women’s National Volleyball Team. The facility offers 150,000 square feet of space, 22 indoor volleyball courts, 16 indoor basketball courts and a soccer court with padded walls.

Angel Stadium of Anaheim, home of Major League Baseball’s (MLB) Los Angeles Angels, features seating for more than 45,000 and includes terraced bullpens in the outfield; widened concourses; family-oriented seating sections; state-of-the-art club-level and dugout-level suites; and the Pepsi Perfect Game Pavilion, a youth-oriented interactive game area. Angel Stadium will host the MLB’s 2010 All-Star event from July 9-13, including the Home Run Derby, MLB All-Star FanFest, All-Star Sunday and, of course, the All-Star game.

Anaheim Convention Center is the largest convention center on the West Coast, Cali said, boasting 1.6 million gross square feet of space, including exhibit space, meeting space, outdoor space, a pre-function lobby, a ballroom and Anaheim Arena, with seating for 7,500. Last year, the center hosted the West Coast Tip Off Classic NCAA DII basketball tournament and the ESPN 76 Classic NCAA DI basketball tournament.

The Honda Center, less than a mile away from the convention center, is the city’s premier entertainment and sports venue, Cali said. Opened in 1993, the center serves as home for the NHL’s Anaheim Ducks and has a seating capacity of more than 17,000. The facility has hosted more than just ice events; it has also hosted World Gymnastics Championships, World Badminton Championships, and will once again host the John Wooden Classic college basketball event this year. The facility will host the NCAA Men’s Basketball Regional in 2011.

When competitions are finished, Anaheim is a perfect place to play, Cali said, as the home of Disneyland, California Adventure and Downtown Disney. For more information, log on to


Carrie Baulwin, sales manager for the Vallejo Convention and Visitors Bureau, said that anything a sports event planner would look for in a community could be found in her city. “With all the facilities we have, not only will we be able to accommodate all of your athletes and fans, but they will also be far from disappointed with the level of service they get while staying in our city,” she said.

One option for sports events is Solano County Fairgrounds, which feature five acres of paved lot space and more than 60,000 square feet of indoor event space. The event space is located in two separate halls, each of which can hold 3,000 fans, Baulwin said. Then there is the Infineon Raceway, which offers 1,600 acres and is preparing to host the 2010 Sonoma Historic Motorsports Festival June 5-6, a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race June 18-20, and the Indy Car Grand Prix Aug. 20-22.

The Mare Island Sports Center boasts 61,000 square feet, two indoor soccer fields, two volleyball courts, a full basketball court and baseball batting cages. Last year, the facility hosted the Vallejo Rugby Tournament and the Bakersfield Strikers Youth Soccer Tournament.

For those who are looking for a unique option for their event, Six Flags’ Discovery Kingdom is a combination animal park, oceanarium, theme park and sports events venue, Baulwin said. Discovery Kingdom offers spaces for athletic events and performances, including Chabot Stadium with its foam cheering platform and space for 3,000 fans. Both the Xtreme Spirit Cheerleading Team and the Squirette All Stars Cheer Team held events there for more than 300 athletes each. For more information, log on to


Bakersfield is well known for its quality and variety of sports facilities as well as the value it provides to groups, said Chris Huot, marketing and events specialist for the Bakersfield CVB. “The price of hosting an event in California can be daunting for sports planners on a tight budget. Big cities can be expensive, but that’s not the case in Bakersfield. Our hotel room rates average 40 to 50 percent less than the state average, which really adds up, allowing participants to do more in the city without it costing so much,” he said.

The Rabobank Arena is one option for sporting events and offers 10,000 permanent seats, a four-sided video board, 20,000 square feet of floor space and an additional 30,000 square feet of space in the adjacent convention center exhibit hall. The arena will serve as host of the California Interscholastic Federation State High School Wrestling Tournament through 2012. The tournament attracts more than 500 athletes and 21,000 spectators for the two-day event.

Bakersfield College is home to Memorial Stadium, which can host football, soccer, and track and field events. The college also offers the William A. Wheeler Aquatic Center, a gymnasium, two softball and baseball complexes, and eight lighted tennis courts. The stage five finish of the 2010 Amgen Tour of California, which draws thousands of top cyclists including Lance Armstrong, for the largest cycling race in the United States, will be held at the college.

The Kern County Soccer Park boasts 25 fields, including 21 regulation-sized fields, four modified fields and parking for more than 1,500.

The city also offers the Bakersfield Southwest Baseball Complex, which includes 10 playing fields; the Ski West Village, a three-lake complex designed for water sports that hosted the 2009 INT Waterski National Championships; the McMurtrey Aquatic Center, which boasts a large recreation pool and a heated Olympic-sized swimming pool; and the Bakersfield Ice Sports Center, which houses a regulation-sized hockey rink and is home to the Bakersfield Condors, a minor league ice hockey team under the Pacific Division of the ECHL.

Looking ahead, the city plans to build The Bakersfield Sports Village, which will offer 16 soccer fields, 12 baseball fields, six football fields and a community center when complete. The first phase of the project, which will include all the soccer fields, will open this year, Huot said. For more information, log on to


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According to Monica Smith, director of sales and client services for the Pasadena CVB, the city offers an “enticing combination of urban allure and culture” as well as vast and impressive sports facilities.

Probably the most well-known sports facility in Pasadena is Rose Bowl Stadium, which has been a sports staple in the city since it was built in 1922. The stadium has hosted five NFL Super Bowls, the FIFA Women’s World Cup and, of course, the annual Rose Bowl game. This year, it also hosted the 2010 BCS National Championship game, attracting a sell-out crowd. The stadium serves as home of UCLA Bruins football.

Located just south of the Rose Bowl is the Amateur Athletic Foundation Rose Bowl Aquatics Center, a swimming and diving facility opened in 1989. The facility offers two 50-meter pools with a depth of 17 feet, two hydro spas and an exercise room. The facility hosted the 2008 U.S. National Diving Championships and was the practice center for the 2000 U.S. Olympic swim team.

Pasadena City College makes its facilities available to outside groups, including Robinson Stadium, designed for football, soccer and more. The college’s aquatic center is suited for swimming meets or water polo matches in the 50-meter pool, while basketball, badminton, volleyball, wrestling and fencing events will find space at the Hutto-Patterson Gymnasium, with seating for up to 2,500.

Another option is Pasadena Convention Center, which completed a $150 million renovation last spring, Smith said. The center features an 80,000-square-foot exhibit hall, seats for up to 8,500 and a 25,000-square-foot ballroom. The center will host the Prime Time Dance competition later this month. For more information, log on to  



Kelly Carr, sports council manager for the Fresno City and County CVB, said just about any sport will find a venue in her city. “There are few communities that can offer two arenas, seven stadiums, more than 100 softball and baseball fields, championship-caliber pools, BMX and mountain bike tracks, and paintball and skateboard facilities all within a 20-minute radius,” he said. “From quality venues to affordable, sports-friendly hotels to great weather, Fresno has it all. That’s why we are California’s Year Round Playground.”

Selland Arena, renovated in the summer of 2008, offers 27,000 square feet of flat floor space and has a seating capacity of 9,300. The arena has hosted the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) Central Section Basketball Championships, the USA Wrestling Freestyle State Championships, the California Junior College Men’s and Women’s State Basketball Championships, and the USA Taekwondo National Qualifier.

The 110-acre Fresno Regional Sports Complex features six lighted championships softball fields, nine lighted soccer/flag football fields, an 11-acre paintball facility, a skateboarding vertical ramp, and a fishing pond. In September, the complex will host both the 2010 Amateur Softball Association’s (ASA) Men’s Class D Western National Championships, featuring 50 teams, and the 2010 ASA Men’s 45-Over National Championships, featuring eight teams.

Woodward Park offers a 5,000- and 10,000-meter cross-country course, a newly opened BMX Track, a free-ride/jump track and mountain bike trails, an 18-hole Frisbee golf course, and a 3,500-seat amphitheater. The park has hosted both the CIF State Cross Country Championships and the California Junior College State Cross Country Championships, which draw more than 2,500 athletes combined.

Nearby, the city of Clovis offers several facilities, including the Buchanan Complex, with a 10,000-seat football and track facility, eight youth softball fields, a baseball stadium, two gymnasiums, four soccer/flag football fields and 20 tennis courts. The 2010 ASA Softball Girls 14-U Western National Championships will be held at both the Buchanan Complex and the Fresno Regional Complex in August and will feature 90 teams.

For planners needing a convention center, the combined 67,000 square feet of exhibit space at the Fresno Convention Center can be used as one large space or can broken down into three separate halls. The center, which features 20 individual meeting rooms, also offers full-service catering for events. For more information, log on to

Santa Clarita

Santa Clarita is ideal for large-scaled sporting events with one of the most comprehensive parks and recreation programs and some of the most pristine facilities in Southern California, said Russell Sypowicz, administrative analyst for the Santa Clarita Valley Chamber of Commerce. “We are a lifestyle community, and Santa Clarita continues to make a name for itself as a key Southern California destination for sporting events,” he said.

Central Park in Santa Clarita opened in 2000 with eight baseball diamonds on more than 80 acres. The park was the site of the 2009 Western States Police and Fire games, which drew 8,000 participants, and has hosted the American Youth Soccer Organization’s Region 46 tournament, a three-day soccer competition.

The Santa Clarita Aquatic Center, which opened in 2003, features three pools, including a 50-meter competition pool with a competition timing system. The aquatic center has hosted the Southern California Swimming Junior Olympics and the United States Masters Swimming Championships.

The College of the Canyons Cougar Stadium, originally built in 1969, has undergone dramatic changes over the past few years, Sypowicz said. The natural grass surface was replaced with FieldTurf synthetic grass, allowing it to accommodate more events. New competition areas were installed for the high jump, pole vault, discus and shot put, among track and field events. Football, men’s and women’s soccer, and men’s and women’s track and field competitions can all be held in the 7,500-seat stadium.

The Valencia Country Club in Santa Clarita hosted the 2009 AT&T Champions Classic, which resulted in a $7 million economic impact. The city has also been a stop on the Amgen Tour of California from 2007-2009.

While Santa Clarita does not currently have a dedicated convention center, a study has been commissioned to determine the demand for such a facility, Sypowicz said. For more information, log on to

San Diego North

The mix of world-class facilities, temperate weather and scenic vistas sets San Diego North apart as a unique venue for sports events, according to Amber Connor, public relations coordinator for San Diego North CVB. “Not only does San Diego North feature great amenities for conventional sporting events such as tennis, basketball and golf (with more 40 golf courses to choose from in the region), it is also a great location for sports that don’t require specific sports facilities like surfing, stand up paddle boarding, kayaking and cycling,” she said.

One sports venue in the city is the Del Mar Racetrack and Fairgrounds. The grounds include an arena, a horse park and the Hot Shotz Center, designed specifically for sports and recreational events. This summer, the Professional Bull Riding group will make a stop at the Del Mar Arena for the Del Mar Invitational Bull Riding Event.

The La Jolla Beach and Tennis Club features 12 championship tennis courts and hosts several tournaments every year, including the Pacific Coast Men’s Doubles Championship, the United States Tennis Association (USTA) National Senior Women’s 50-90 Invitational Hard Court Championships, USTA National Senior Men’s and Women’s 40s Hard Court Championships, and the USTA National Father-Son/Grandfather-Grandson Hard Court Championships.

Torrey Pines Golf Course, with two 18-hole golf courses, hosts the annual PGA Tour Farmers Insurance Open at the course each year, along with the San Diego City Amateur Golf Championships every June, and the Junior World Golf Championships every July. The course hosted the 2008 U.S. Open Golf Championship.

The La Costa Resort and Spa offers 17 tennis courts with clay and hard court surfaces and contains stadium seating for 1,000, making it the ideal setting for tournaments, Connor said.

Lacrosse events are gaining steam in the San Diego North area, with the PacificXposure Lacrosse Event being hosted in the area for the first time June 25-27. The 100-team tournament will utilize the facilities of the Poway School District. For more information, log on to


Colorado Springs

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Colorado Springs, located in the center of the state along Interstate 25, is a perfect fit for athletes training for competitions in higher elevations, said Cheryl McCullough, sports and special events manager for the Colorado Springs CVB. “The fact that we are at an elevation of 6,035 feet provides optimum training for athletes at a high elevation,” she said. “Colorado Springs and the Pike’s Peak region is a perfect fit for sports events because, in addition to the more than 300 days of sunshine each year and our mild climate, the city offers first-tier-city amenities at second-tier-city prices.”

In Colorado Springs, event planners will find the United States Olympic Training Center, which features an aquatic center with a 50-meter by 25-meter pool, an overhead catwalk, and underwater cameras allowing trainers to film their athletes.

Also within the training facility, Olympic Sports Center I, the first multipurpose gymnasium in Colorado Springs, contains six separate gyms for a variety of competitions. The Sports Center II can accommodate nine different sports.

The Training Center also houses the Olympic Shooting Center, the largest indoor shooting facility in the Western Hemisphere, with more than 100 different shooting ranges.

Colorado Springs World Arena features 8,000 seats and an attached ice hall is home to the Broadmoor Skating Club and the Division I Colorado College Men’s Hockey team. The arena contains two sheets of ice (one NHL and one Olympic) and a comprehensive off- and on-ice training program that has attracted athletes from across the world. The arena will host the 2010 ISU World Synchronized Skating Championships April 9-10 and recently hosted the Colorado Cup Hockey Championships, McCullough said.

Hotel options include the Renaissance Hotel, the historic Cliff House and the Cheyenne Mountain Resort, which is undergoing a $20 million renovation that is set for completion in April 2011. For more information, log on to



Whether it is the big, open skies or the stunning mountain views or the variety of things to do, the combination of all three is what makes Boulder the best place to host a sporting event, according to Teri Olander, recreation administrator for the Boulder CVB. “While others may prefer to relax and enjoy our mountains, lakes, streams, clean air and abundant wildlife, the city also offers unique, entertaining and inspiring events virtually every day. There is just so much to do, see and taste that it could be overwhelming,” she said.

Pleasant View Fields offers nine full-sized sand-based soccer fields with portable bleachers. The facility will host the Rocky Mountain Cup Youth Girls and Boys Soccer Tournaments June 11-13 and June 18-20. Pleasant View can also host rugby events, Olander said.

Stazio Ballfields offers seven baseball fields that will host the Rocky Mountain Showdown Girls Fastpitch Tournament June 4-6 and the 80-team Louisville Slugger Girls Fastpitch Independence Day Tournament June 29-July 4. The anticipated economic impact from the Louisville Slugger Tournament is $5 million, she said. The fact that the city is located less than an hour’s drive from Rocky Mountain National Park and at least half a dozen other park creates “limitless opportunities for hiking, cycling, climbing and rafting for all skills and ability levels,” Olander said. For more information, log on to



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The second-largest city in Nevada, Henderson offers top-notch sports facilities with a hometown feel, which makes the city a great sports destination, according to Tim Haskell, sales and marketing specialist for the city. “No matter what Henderson venue an event organizer or promoter chooses for their sporting event, they will have the luxury of relying on one point of contact to accommodate all their planning needs,” Haskell said. “And Henderson’s friendly and knowledgeable staff will assist with site inspections, hotel accommodations and additional planning logistics.”

The Arroyo Grande Sports Complex, renovated last year, offers nine lighted baseball and softball fields, lighted basketball courts, horseshoe pits and an open grassy area. The complex has hosted the 100-team Las Vegas Baseball Academy Memorial Day Youth Tournament for the past 13 years. Later this year, the complex will host the Las Vegas Baseball Academy Fall Desert Youth Classic and the Cranberry Classic Youth Baseball Tournament.

The 25-acre Russell Road Recreation Complex features three baseball fields, horseshoe pits, volleyball courts and several lighted multipurpose fields. The facility hosts several annual softball events, including the ASA Junior Olympic Classic in June and the National Softball Association Western World Series in September. It has also hosted the Nevada Police Games every August for the past five years.

Heritage Park and Aquatic Complex, set to begin opening this spring in phases, will feature tennis courts, bocce ball courts, multi-use fields, volleyball courts, a festival plaza, a dog park and miles of walking trails. The aquatic complex will offer two indoor pools, one with 14 lanes and one warm-water pool equipped with full timing and scoring systems.

Another option is the Henderson Convention Center that has hosted mixed martial arts, boxing and triathlon events.

Henderson Events Plaza offers 60,000 square feet of event space, including a 4,000-square-foot shaded canopy amphitheatre and the Paseo Canopy with 22,000 square feet of shaded event space. The plaza has hosted the Firefighter World Challenge and Tour de Cure cycling events. For more information, log on to


If you are looking prime athletic competition space, look no further than Utah, said Jeff Robbins, president and CEO of the Utah Sports Commission. “Salt Lake City hosted the 2002 Olympic Winter Games, providing world-class venues, well-trained volunteers and significant event hosting experience,” he said. “Fourteen Olympic venues continue to be used for competition, elite training and recreational purposes, and Utah’s seasons allow for both a summer and winter landscape, which is perfect for hosting all seasonal sports.”


Salt Lake City

One venue in Utah is the EnergySolutions Arena in Salt Lake City. The facility can seat 20,400 and is home of the NBA’s Utah Jazz team. The NCAA Men’s Basketball Regional Tournament (Sweet 16) will be held beginning on March 27.

Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City, site of the 2002 Winter Olympics Games Opening Ceremony, can accommodate more than 45,000 fans for events. It recently hosted the American Motorcyclist Association Monster Energy Supercross event. For more information, log on to


Nearby, Sandy’s Rio-Tinto Stadium seats 20,000 people for Major League Soccer games and other sports events. It hosted the 2009 MLS All-Star Game and the 2009 Amsoil Western Nationals Snocross and Freestyle. The carpet-like natural grass field is made of GTF Kentucky Bluegrass, engineered by Graff’s Turf Farm in Fort Morgan, Colo., the turf supplier for Wrigley Field, Lambeau Field, Busch Stadium and Notre Dame Stadium, Robbins said. The field was chemically and organically developed specifically for Utah’s high-desert climate to ensure optimal growth and durability throughout the year.

Sporting events can also be held at Salt Palace Convention Center, with its 515,000 square feet of exhibit space, or the SouthTowne Convention Center, located in Sandy, which features 243,00 square feet of exhibit space. For more information, log on to



Casper, centrally located in the Rocky Mountain Region, has a wide variety of indoor and outdoor sporting venues, said Darlene Matz, director of competitions and group travel for the Casper Area CVB. “The people in Casper enjoy having sporting events here to show visitors what a great city we have. We also have volunteers throughout the community to help with major events,” she said.

Casper Events Center is a complex that is no stranger to everything from professional rodeos to three-ring circuses. A horseshoe-shaped arena with retractable seating of up to 10,400 allows for more flat floor space. An indoor arena football team, the Wyoming Calvary, uses the center as its home field, and the city currently hosts state high school volleyball, basketball and wrestling tournaments inside the Events Center.

The Central Wyoming Fairgrounds Indoor Arena can seat 2,100 seats (412 are box seats). The arena has hosted archery tournament, rodeos, wrestling tournaments and more, Matz said.

The Casper Recreation Center and Ice Arena features a regulation-sized sheet of ice and heated seating areas. It hosts ice shows and several statewide hockey tournaments annually. The attached recreation center can accommodate volleyball, basketball, racquetball, wallyball and pickleball tournaments and can seat up to 500 patrons.

The Casper Soccer Complex, with a total of 13 fields, has been used for numerous youth tournaments.

Matz said the city also has numerous baseball and softball fields; a motor speedway; a motocross track; an ATV track; a BMX track; skeet, shooting, and archery facilities; four indoor and 19 outdoor tennis courts; fishing venues; a whitewater park; rock climbing areas, Nordic ski trails; snowmobile trails; and more. “There are just too many venues to list them all,” she said. For more information, log on to


Only 90 minutes north of Denver, Cheyenne is the gateway and anchor city of the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains, which provides a wide variety of options for outdoor sporting adventurers, said Shantelle Dedicke, director of convention sales for the Cheyenne CVB. Extreme sports enthusiasts can venture to the Cheyenne Sports Center, which offers racing venues for arenacross and motocross events, or to Roller City Cheyenne, home of the Rocky Mountain Racing Speedskaters.

But what the city is most often thought of for is rodeo. “We’ve hosted both professional and amateur events at the Frontier Days Arena, which has seating for 19,000. We’re known for Frontier Days, which is held every July and is the world’s largest outdoor rodeo.”

Other sports venues in the city include Cahill Soccer Park, featuring five soccer fields and picnic facilities; Converse Softball Complex, with four softball fields and a bike path; and Dutcher Baseball, with four baseball fields and a bike path. For more information, log on to