The Evergreen State is a beautiful place to host your event
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the state of Washington was a flourishing sports haven filled with cacophonous gymnasiums and bustling fields. While the pandemic took some of the starch out of the Evergreen State’s momentum in 2020 as stadiums and complexes were forced to shutter, Washington’s sports scene has again undergone a resurgence in 2021. Across the state, cities are welcoming tournaments and complexes are full on a weekly basis. Here are some destinations that have been thriving in 2021.
Washington’s capital city, Olympia is filled with natural beauty, from the historic falls of Tumwater to the denselyforested parklands of Lacey. It is also a popular sports destination as one of its finest athletic venues, the Regional Athletic Complex in Lacey, has been busy. “Our golf courses are full, our Regional Athletic Complex has been turning away spring and summer tournament business because everyone is looking to get outdoors,” said Jeff Bowe, vice president of sales and development for Experience Olympia & Beyond. “Our biggest challenge is finding sports events that fit need periods for our hotels.”
The Regional Athletic Complex is regarded as one of the top outdoor sporting venues in the state. This 100- acre facility features spectacular views of Mt. Rainier and houses five softball/baseball fields and six regulation-sized soccer/football/rugby fields.
In recent months, the RAC has hosted a USA 12U state fastpitch tournament and Cal Ripken 9U, 10U, 11U and 12U state and regional baseball tournaments. It’s also accommodated the Flag Football Championship Tour, a Washington State girls high school fastpitch tournament and youth baseball and softball tournaments. Continuing its multifaceted ways, the RAC has also hosted events like the Capital Lakefair volleyball tournament, Ultimate frisbee leagues and the Lacey Pocket Gophers semi-pro soccer club.
Seattle Southside is home to top-flight facilities just a few miles away from a world-class city’s downtown. Its cities of Tukwila, SeaTac and Des Moines are ideally situated to make the most out of visitors’ Pacific Northwest excursions. Starfire Sports in Tukwila has earned a reputation as one of the best soccer venues in the country. Located minutes from Seattle, the 54-acre campus features 12 outdoor and two indoor pitches, Starfire Stadium, which has spectator capacity of 4,000, a world-class athletic center, restaurants and retail and a sports performance center and physical therapy.
“We started to reopen for activity in mid-June 2020 with various socially distant soccer club practices, with various league games returning starting earlier this year in January. Larger events and tournaments started to return in April,” said Kelley Talbot, campus resource manager for Starfire Sports.
Starfire’s exceptional campus attracts more than 100,000 unique visitors per year and more than 15 youth and adult tournaments take place there annually. Among the events held at Starfire in 2021 include Seattle Seawolves Major League Rugby, the Puget Sound Premier League WA Cup Qualifier, Seattle Soccer ID camp, the 2021 Sounders FC Cup and FC Barcelona and Real Madrid soccer camps.
Nestled between the waters of Puget Sound and the snowcapped peaks of the Cascade Mountains, Snohomish County is an ideal spot for adventurous travelers. The sporting scene started trending upwards in June 2021 as sports tournaments returned to play. The diversity of sports coming back included figure skating, lacrosse, soccer and wrestling.
“In April, we hosted our first major sports events of the year,” said Tammy Dunn, executive director of the Snohomish County Sports Commission. “We hosted a USA Gymnastics Washington State XCEL Gold/Platinum/ Diamond State Championships, American Cornhole League Regionals and National Amateur Disc Golf Tour. It was exciting to have sports events coming back.”
In 2021, Snohomish County’s outdoor venues have been busy with baseball, soccer, lacrosse, and rugby. Phil Johnson Ballfields, four lighted turf baseball/softball fields, and Meadowdale Athletic Complex, three lighted turf infield baseball/softball fields and two turf multi-purpose fields, have been hosting baseball and fastpitch tournaments every weekend. Stocker Fields Soccer Complex has 15 grass soccer fields with a beautiful backdrop of the Snohomish Valley has hosted three major soccer tournaments. Other events held in Snohomish County in 2021 included Spikeball National Tour Series, USTA PNW Section Championships, Kayak Point Open Disc Golf Tournament, and Trifecta Seattle North Spartan Race.
These three closely-linked cities (Kennewick, Pasco and Richland) in Eastern Washington are popular destinations thanks to the area’s 300 sun-filled days each year. Recreation and sports enthusiasts cherish the area’s biking and hiking trails as well as its Columbia, Snake and Yakima rivers, which are great spots to enjoy water sports.
“Sports in the Tri-Cities are back in full force with us finishing up the month of June with our largest softball tournament since the pandemic began with approximately 100 teams,” said Hector Cruz, vice president of Visit Tri-Cities. “In addition, we are hosting our largest outdoor event, the Tri-City Water Follies, which is expected to draw 18,000 people along our river shores for the hydro boat races.” The area’s major venues, the Pasco Sporting Complex, Southridge Sports & Events Complex, and Columbia Playfield have all been busy this spring and summer.
The Pasco Sporting Complex has six softball fields, two sand volleyball courts, batting cages and an aquatic playground. The complex has been the headquarters for major tournaments such as USA Softball Western Nationals, National Softball Association and Triple Crown Sports.
Columbia Playfield, in Richland, is a 28-acre venue with five softball fields, which hosts college, regional and state level tournaments. Southridge Sports Complex is a 52-acre multi-sports facility in Kennewick that contains four lighted softball/baseball fields and two multi-use sports fields. The complex houses the 30,000 square-foot indoor Numerica Pavilion that hosts events such as basketball, volleyball, futsal, pole vaulting and antique shows.
Yakima Valley features some of the most respected winemakers in the Northwest, making it a favorite destination for visitors from across the country. It also has a flourishing sporting scene thanks in part to its sunshine and lovely natural setting.
“After being shut down for most of 2020, and the start of 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, sports are definitely coming back to the Yakima Valley,” said Rich Austin, director of sports development, Yakima Valley Sports Commission. “Once restrictions were relaxed, event organizers began scheduling their tournaments. The first ones to host events were the outdoor sports, such as football, soccer, softball and lacrosse.”
Among the many events Yakima Valley has hosted include Yakima Canines indoor football games at the fabled Yakima Valley SunDome (which can host gatherings for up to 8,000); the YakAttack 5v5 soccer tournament and 7 on 7 Association football tournaments at the Sozo Sports Complex (a premier indoor/outdoor complex that features 15 fields plus a 13,500 square-foot indoor facility); several USTA and local tournaments at the Yakima Tennis Club; youth softball and baseball tournaments at the Gateway Sports Complex and multiple golf tournaments at the beautiful Apple Tree Golf Resort.
By Jason Paha