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, Florida
The 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 Carolina
Featured 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, Florida
This 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, Pennsylvania
Two 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.