It was 30 years ago the City of Greensboro, North Carolina visionaries conceived and built Bryan Park Soccer Complex. From its beginning the facility has met the community’s burgeoning interest in soccer. Operated by Greensboro United, the complex accommodates 4,000 youth and adult players. It has grown to become the premier destination for tournament soccer.
Recently, we had the pleasure of speaking with Pete Polonsky, executive director, Greensboro United; Amy Scott, director of marketing, Greensboro Area Convention & Visitors Bureau; and Brian Ambuehl, sports sales manager of the CVB. Those conversations revealed four reasons why Greensboro is a sure fire winner for local, regional and national soccer tournament planners and teams.
First and foremost to the Bryan Park Soccer Complex’s success is the 17 perfectly manicured Bermuda grass fields that make up the complex. Almost exclusively for game use, the city’s Parks and Recreation Department maintain the fields.
“I run into people that played here and are now coming with their teams as coaches. They always talk about the pristine fields,” Polonsky said. Bryan Park has hosted lacrosse and rugby tournaments, but soccer use is primary. Any risk to the fields from other sports is always a scheduling consideration.
The park’s 3,000-seat McPherson Stadium, home to the Carolina Dynamo, is the perfect venue for high-level soccer. The 2013 USASA national champions and 2013 South Atlantic Division champions, the Dynamo team consists of talented players with college and university eligibility remaining. It’s like watching a collegiate all-star game.
The immaculate McPherson Stadium field and accompanying amenities are used for tournament championship games throughout the season. Few soccer complexes provide such a memorable venue. The field and facilities were the deciding factors when the Big South Conference collegiate men and women’s tournaments decided on Bryan Park Soccer Complex. ESPN was particularly pleased with the stadium’s T-1 high-speed data line.
Although the fields and stadium are certainly a big part of the memories, there’s more to the experience. Imagine a young player’s excitement hearing his team’s name called and walking across the stage to receive a trophy or medal. The City of Greensboro’s unique “Show Wagon Stage” delivers that memorable experience. A portable, but full-size stage is set up complete with draping and background for every major tournament event.
In addition to three major tournaments scheduled this summer with outside planners, Greensboro United hosts two major tournaments. Wrangler-McDonald’s Memorial Day Tournament. now in its 35th year, and the 20-year-old Greensboro Labor Day Classic offer a special twist for the 300+ visiting teams that each tournament attracts. The host hotel, Sheraton Greensboro Four Seasons, is home to the traditional players dance. Kids from teams in the seven or eight states typically represented mingle and have some fun while a DJ plays their favorite music. Sometimes it’s the little things that set a destination apart from the competition.
Commitment to Excellence
You might think that Greensboro’s Bryan Park Soccer Complex has it all together. After all, they have great facilities and outstanding programs. They deserve a place at the top of tournament soccer destinations. After all, they’ve hosted four United State Youth Soccer Region III Championships, a USYS record. In the summer of 2014 they’ll host the United States Club Soccer Regional and National Championships. Greensboro United’s own tournaments are having a banner year.
It’s not the Greensboro way to sit on its laurels. Within a five-hour drive of Greensboro, more than $90 million dollars has been spent on new facilities, but Greensboro has no intention of being left behind. Polonsky credits the city leaders with continuing the vision that began 30 years ago as infrastructure investment has not slowed up.
Already this year, more than $600,000 has been spent on new restrooms and a conference room. A new Subway shop opens early summer in the center of the complex. Expansion is also in the strategic plan with large acreage available for additional fields and facilities.
Greensboro United has a $25-million economic impact on the greater Greensboro area with individual tournaments yielding up to $3 million per event,” Polonsky said. “Our goal is to continue to grow and build our Bryan Park Soccer Complex into one of the top facilities in the nation.
The Greensboro Area has a strong tradition of sports volunteerism. It begins with the dynamic partnership that exists between the City of Greensboro, Greensboro Sports Commission, Greensboro Area Convention & Visitors Bureau and Greensboro United.
That history of coming together as a sports- minded community could possibly be traced back to the city’s regularly hosting the Atlantic Coast Basketball Tournament. Hosting the teams and fans for a premier college basketball conference took planning and organization. Volunteering certainly provided the opportunity to be part of the event, but also an appreciation for what the tournament did for the community.
The call for volunteers goes out annually when the PGA Tour’s Wyndham Championship rolls into town in mid-August. When the Bryan Park Golf Course, adjacent to the soccer complex, hosted the 2010 US Amateur Public Links Championship on its championship course, there was an experienced group ready and willing.
Location, Location, Location
The old real estate adage certainly applies to Greensboro’s place in the soccer elite. Centrally located in North Carolina and on the East Coast, Greensboro is a convenient five-hour drive from major population centers in metro Atlanta and the Baltimore-Washington corridor. Major Interstate highways converging in Greensboro are I-85, I-40 and the future I-73 and I-74. Piedmont Triad International Airport services Greensboro and hub airports Raleigh-Durham International Airport and Charlotte-Douglas International Airport are just an hour’s drive.
In addition to the Sheraton Greensboro at Four Seasons with its ability to accommodate large groups, the city has flag and independent hotels to fit every budget. Greensboro’s dining scene is a wonderful blend of Southern and metropolitan delights.
The same attractions that draw visitors to Greensboro are certainly part of the reason that makes Greensboro a favorite soccer destination. When play on the field ends, there are fun and educational opportunities waiting.
The Science Museum with its soon-to-be-completed Sky Line zip line is a favorite. Go-karts and arcades rule at Celebration Station, while the best place to cool off after the games is Wet n’ Wild Emerald Pointe. A must-see is the International Civil Rights Center & Museum. The Woolworth Lunch Counter where four students sat and peacefully defied segregation on Feb. 1, 1960 is just one of the inspiring exhibits.
You can definitely say that Greensboro has it all and certainly deserves its top spot in the soccer destination hierarchy.
By Dave Bodle