A community’s commitment to investing in sports tourism comes from the support of numerous entities. That backing comes from local tourism officials, parks and recreation, city council and the area residents that so often carry the volunteer responsibilities. It’s a formula for success.
In August 2018, the City of Virginia Beach broke ground for the new 285,000-square-foot Virginia Beach Sports Center. By the fifth year, there’s a projected potential of 68 events on the combined courts and track. That’s a significant increase over the last fiscal year when just 20-percent of the 93 sporting events held in Virginia Beach were indoors. With this facility, the Hampton Roads Sports Commission has the opportunity to recruit events that before were unattainable. A case in point is the track at Norfolk State University. It is a great venue, and with the center’s new indoor track that meets NCAA standards, NCAA Division I and IAAF events are possible. There will be spectator seating for 4,400. The courts will accommodate basketball, volleyball, wrestling, gymnastics, cheer and field hockey. Construction is scheduled to begin on the $68 million project in December with a planned opening in 2020.
Virginia’s Blue Ridge has been awarded a Silver-Level Ride Center designation by the International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA). David Wiens, executive director of IMBA said, “The new status puts Virginia on par with some of the greatest mountain bike destinations.” The designation took nearly two years of hard work by many people, including the trail work dome by IMBA Roanoke Chapter and resulted in being the only Silver-Level Ride Center on the East Coast. It’s believed the Ride Center designation will result in increased visitation and competitions, economic activity and supported jobs in Virginia’s Blue Ridge.
Glover Park (previously Greenwood Park) is near Richmond in Henrico County and opened in May 2018 with a brand new 88-acre tournament facility. There are four multi-purpose lighted synthetic athletic fields with an additional stadium field. The eight sand volleyball courts are sized and spaced to NCAA standards accommodating doubles, fours and sixes play. A pavilion, a large restroom building and children’s playground completes the new venue. Four sand volleyball courts are located a short drive from Glover Park at Pouncey Park provide an auxiliary facility.
In Lynchburg, the Liberty University Natatorium is now open. The 75,000 square foot state-of-the-art facility meets all the specifications for NCAA Division I swimming, diving and water polo. The facility features a nine-lane, 50-meter pool with a movable bulkhead. The 25-yard pool can also be divided into 20-lanes for short course exercises. The diving well can also be fashioned for eight additional lanes permitting multiple teams to practice. The 17-foot diving well has a three column tower of one, three, 7.5 and 10-meter platforms. One and three meter springboards are also part of the diving well.
In Leesburg in Loudon County the ION International Training Center will open as a year-round, twin sheet indoor ice rink and Arena. The National Hockey League-sized rinks host professional and recreational figure skaters, ice dancers, pair skaters and hockey competition. Stadium seating for 3,500-4,200 circles the one rink. The facility services everyone from beginners to elites, local and international skaters. The multi functional floor can also be used for non-ice related events.
Named for 2016 Olympian and member of the 2015 Women’s World Cup championship team, the Ali Krieger Sports Complex officially opened in June of 2018. The 29.7-acre complex includes seven rectangular, multi-purpose fields, a softball field, playground, concessions and ample parking. The softball field and two of the rectangular fields have rugged, durable Bermuda grass. Two other rectangular fields are covered with artificial turf enabling athletes to play even in inclement weather. Two of the rectangular fields and the softball field will be lighted. Two additional rectangular fields are located at the adjacent elementary school.
The 450,00-square-foot The St. James in Springfield is a comprehensive sports, wellness and entertainment complex. The 110,000-square-foot multi-purpose field house with a FIFA regulation-sized turf field for soccer is impressive. The sports venues continue with an Aquatics Center featuring an Olympic-sized competition pool. There are two National Hockey League-regulation sized ice rinks for hockey, figure skating and synchronized skating. The Basketball and Volleyball Center features four full-length basketball courts that easily convert to nine NCAA regulation sized volleyball courts. The 10,000-square-foot Gymnastics Training Center has dance performance space, completion sized spring floor, deep foam pits, Timbl Track and in-ground trampolines. The Baseball Softball Center includes six tunnels for batting and pitching. There are eight international regulation sized squash courts and seven
premium golf simulators in the Golf & Squash Center.
As these new venues come onboard, it may be three to five years before they begin to reach capacity. Even before then Virginia has attracted some significant new events for 2019 and beyond. Here are just a few.
March of 2019 and 2021, the NCAA Division III Women’s Basketball Championship will be played at Cregger Field House on the campus of Roanoke College. Four teams will be coming to Roanoke to vie for a National Championship.
July 31-August 4, 2019 in a collaborative effort between Virginia Amateur Sports, Liberty University and the City of Lynchburg the State Games of America will be coming to Lynchburg. This is the first time Virginia has been selected to host this Olympic-style event completion that will attract almost 15,000 medal winners from State Games throughout the U.S.
September 2019 brings the United States Women’s Disc Golf Championship (USWDGC) to Spotsylvania. The USWDGC event is one of the largest women’s disc golf competitions in the world.
July 29-August 8, 2020 the Hampton Roads region will be the site for the AAU Junior Olympics. The showcase event for the AAU Sports Program is the largest national multi-sport event for youth in the United States.
August 2020 marks the date for the U.S. Masters Swimming Summer National Championship in Chesterfield.
May 2021 Salem will host the NCAA Women’s Lacrosse National Championship for Division II and Division III. Four teams from each Division will compete at Kerr Field on the Roanoke College campus. In 2022 the Division III National Championship will return to Roanoke.
May 2021 & 2022 brings the NCAA Division III Softball Championship to Salem. Eight top teams will play a double elimination tournament with the winner crowned National Champion at Salem’s Moyer Sports Complex.
Big time venues and big-time events, Virginia has a history of having both. To learn more of what Virginia has to offer visit online at the Sports Virginia website Sportsvirginia.org. #SportsVirginia