Shiny new facilities have popped up across the area, and Peoria has played host to Illinois state high school tournaments since the turn of the millennium.
Half way between St. Louis and Chicago, Peoria is a growing community. With new jobs opening at Caterpillar and more and more families starting, sports facilities are in high demand, and the city is supplying.
Along with sports facilities, Peoria has been prettying up the riverfront, making it one of the most beautiful downtown areas in Central Illinois. Caterpillar has opened up a visitors center right on the river, and together with the new Peoria Riverfront Museum next door, is drawing more visitors downtown than ever before.
In the city and a dozen collar suburbs, high school sports have become a competitive and exciting pillar of the area. Schools have built sports facilities for their teams as well as strong communities willing to accommodate a tournament.
Each year the Peoria area hosts four of the state’s major high school tournaments, as well as nearly a dozen state football games. Boys’ and girls’cross country teams from all over Illinois travel to Peoria for the state meets in the fall. In March, high school basketball teams travel to downtown Peoria’s Civic Center for the boys’ championship tournament.
Peoria has been a vital part of the Midwest’s economy for the better part of a century. Today, it’s a huge part of youth sports in the region.
Peoria Civic Center
The central hub of Peoria-area sports, the Peoria Civic Center is home to both NCAA Division I basketball and professional hockey. Bradley University’s Braves men’s basketball team calls the Peoria Civic Center home. The Southern Hockey League’s Peoria Rivermen professional team skates on the ice below the basketball court. The arena, named Carver Arena, seats 12,000 for basketball games and 9,000 when the ice is open. The concourse includes four locker rooms and four dressing rooms, so teams can shuffle in and out during a tournament. The arena comes with full concession and plenty of meeting space is available. The Civic Center is located downtown just a block or two away from major Peoria hotels.
A few miles from downtown Peoria, you’ll find the gem of the Peoria Park District. Detweiller Park is a 760-acre forest reservation that has played host to hundreds of cross country meets. Every year, the Illinois High School Association (IHSA) chooses Detweiller as the host of the state cross country meet. More than a thousand runners come for the state each year. There is a three-mile trail mapped out for the race each year through the beautiful fall foliage.
Just across the Illinois River you will find the EastSide Centre, one of the premier indoor-outdoor athletic facilities in the Midwest, hosting tournaments on the national, regional and local levels in softball, baseball, volleyball, soccer and track. EastSide has five baseball fields, five softball fields, a football stadium, track and field area, multiple soccer fields and an indoor facility for volleyball. EastSide is also home field for East Peoria youth baseball, softball and soccer; East Peoria Community High School baseball, softball, soccer, football and track; NSA tournaments and the Illinois High School Association (IHSA) softball championships.
Located in downtown on the Illinois River, the Riverplex is the premier recreation center for Peoria residents. The 118,000-square-foot facility boasts an indoor and outdoor water playground, indoor and outdoor pool, aerobic/dance studios, a one-eighth-mile running/walking track and locker rooms, outdoor sand volleyball courts, three indoor basketball and volleyball courts, and seating for up to 300 people.
Illinois Central College’s 10,000-square-foot basketball complex also features an 8,700-square-foot fitness center, two team meeting/workout rooms, a collegiate regulation volleyball and basketball court, and an 18-hole disc golf course.
The climate-controlled “Dome” has been host to baseball, softball, soccer, football and lacrosse tournaments. It sits on a 33-acre complex that includes four fields. The 76,000-square-foot dome has hosted ASA and NSA fast-pitch tournaments, youth soccer leagues and is the indoor practice facility for the Bradley Braves baseball team. The Dome can accommodate up to 2,000 people.
Attractions & Accommodations
The riverfront has gotten a complete makeover in the past five years. The new Riverfront Museum, a fully interactive museum about central Illinois life, is right next door to the Caterpillar Visitor Center, which offers a unique look into the famous yellow-and-black company. After a long day of play at the Peoria Civic Center, shower and head right back to catch a Bradley basketball or Peoria Rivermen game. The Civic Center has featured Broadway shows like The Book of Mormon and Jersey Boys as well. In the heart of downtown, the newly renovated Peoria Marriott Pere Marquette has more than 18,000 square feet of meeting space and can accommodate groups up to 850 people. Five minutes down I-74, you can find almost a dozen hotels near Northwoods Mall on War Memorial Drive, a main artery.
Getting Here and Around
Peoria is 2½ hours from both Chicago and St. Louis, 30 minutes from I-55 off I-74. The Peoria International Airport is just 15 minutes from downtown. Peoria’s CityLink provides bus service through residential and downtown Peoria. Peoria Charter offers a shuttle service from the airport as well as charter service to most major Illinois cities.
The Peoria CVB and Sports Commission have worked together to build a one-of-a-kind social media program, promoting local tournaments weeks in advance, getting the attention of the local news outlets as well as the community. They work with entities like the IHSA and other sports organizations to make sure the most eyes find tournament promotions on Facebook and Twitter.