Why North Carolina as a sports event destination? It’s affordable, beyond friendly, has a fervent fan base, enjoys four distinct, temperate seasons, and is easy to reach by air or car. The state consists of three diverse regional landscapes—mountains, the Piedmont and the Atlantic Coast. In a given weekend an adventurer can tee up outside Asheville, run a 5K in Charlotte and ride the sunset surf in Kill Devil Hills, voted one of the world’s top 10 best beach towns.
It Can Happen Here
North Carolina knows sports events and if you can’t do it there, it most likely can’t be done. How many states can offer surfing AND snow skiing? Few sports destinations provide outlets and opportunities for such a wide range of activities.
North Carolina is a unique state, due in large part to its geographic variation. The state stretches from the Atlantic Coast to the Appalachian Mountains, with major cities offering premier event settings and crowd-pleasing attractions. With four international airport hubs located in key areas of the state, hosting an event—whether it’s a large-scale, multi-day, multi-team competition or smaller, shorter, individual contest of endurance—is a cinch. Weather-wise, the state is reminiscent of Goldilocks’ experience with the bears—not too hot, not too cold, but just right.
All Sports, All the Time
Large and small cities host top events such as the National Wheelchair Basketball Association’s International Tournament of Champions, All-Star National Cheer and Dance Competition, FLW’s College Fishing Northern Regional Championship, US Lacrosse Southeast Championship, 2016 USA Ultimate Division I College Championship and 2017 NBA All-Star Game.
The North Carolina Sports Association (NCSA) is a statewide collaboration of sports commissions, CVBs, parks and recreation entities, and sports authorities. NCSA, along with organizations such as Cycle NC, North Carolina Amateur Sports, North Carolina High School Sports Association and Visit North Carolina, is there to nurture and support events.
Communities across North Carolina are committed to building and maintaining the best in sports complexes. Take, for example, WRAL Soccer Center in Raleigh. Already one of the country’s top outdoor venues, it is currently undergoing an extensive renovation project thanks to a multi-million-dollar loan from community supporter Capitol Broadcasting Company. There’s also the USA Baseball National Training Complex, which was built in partnership between the Town of Cary and USA Baseball.
The same principle of community partnerships applies on the shore. Says Jenny Ash of Outer Banks Sporting Events, “[We] partner with many local businesses as well as the Outer Banks Visitors’ Bureau. The support from these partners comes from a joint effort to bring guests to our area in the shoulder season.” She adds, “100 percent of net proceeds from OBSE events is split between the Outer Banks Relief Foundation—helping those local folks in times of unforeseen need—and the Dare Education Foundation—improving our county school system’s resources.”
Anyone who has watched or participated in an athletic contest knows it’s about teamwork; nobody gets to any finish line or final quarter alone. North Carolina more than understands this. With deep athletic roots, it is a state offering immeasurable opportunity, unparalleled statewide and community support and involvement, and a heaping helping of Southern charm. Jesse Newsom of the Fayetteville Area CVB illustrates the point: “My community fears no obstacles and doesn’t understand the meaning of can’t. We will find a way. We have people who have given their whole lives to the military and they still want to give to the community that embraced them.” Across the state the attitude is the same; everyone wants to help and communities want you there.
It’s not just that they come out and cheer, though, or simply distribute water. They “get it” in North Carolina.
“Our community understands the importance of sports tourism as an economic driver, which has allowed Greater Raleigh to develop an impressive track record of hosting successful events,” says Jason Philbeck of the Greater Raleigh Sports Alliance. GRSA Executive Director Scott Dupree agrees: “The key to our success is our host partners; that’s our trademark and what makes this such a great sports town. It’s all about teamwork and partnerships.”
Over and over again it comes back to teamwork and, importantly for organizers, partnerships with area businesses. Travis Dancy, chairman of North Carolina Sports Association and Visit Lake Norman, says, “Lake Norman has a regionally collaborative sense of community. They love to embrace different events. There is a great sense of collaboration among the town, parks and rec departments and hospitality business.”
Ready, Set, Go
Philbeck sums up the North Carolina experience: “Every destination focuses on ensuring a winning experience from the moment visitors land at the airport until the moment they depart. Event attendees comment all the time about how much they appreciated the helpful, friendly staff at hotels and restaurants and how welcoming the locals were during their visit.”
Offering premier services in a comfortable, accessible, affordable environment with support from dedicated volunteers, where you’re greeted by smiles and kindness at every corner, North Carolina is an obvious choice. The challenge is picking where to go first.