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Should Arlington government leaders wish to join an emerging regional consortium aimed at jointly promoting sports facilities in Northern Virginia, they’d be welcome to do so, officials with the new group said.
In return, Arlington officials said they would be interested in being part of the effort down the road, if opportunities present themselves.
The tourism-marketing organizations of Fairfax, Loudoun, Prince William and Stafford counties announced Aug. 10 the launch of SportsNOVA, a new regional sports-tourism partnership designed to market Northern Virginia as a premier destination for travel sports events.
With the goal of generating economic impact and fostering community development in the region, the partners will work collaboratively to attract multi-sport and large single-sport events that can only be accommodated through a collective effort.
“As sporting events continue to be the catalyst for America’s recovery post-COVID, SportsNOVA is an innovative approach to creating a community collaborative to market Northern Virginia,” said Al Kidd, president and CEO of Sports ETA, the trade association for the U.S. sports-events-tourism industry.
“SportsNOVA is a smart solution to attract event-rights holders to the area’s diverse portfolio of venues,” Kidd said.
Within a day’s drive of 50 percent of the U.S. population, Northern Virginia features an array of tournament-capable indoor and outdoor venues, from universities, megasportsplexes and arenas to sites with large clusters of rectangular and diamond fields, basketball and volleyball courts, sheets of ice, pools and other facility types.
Major sports venues include George Mason University; ION International Training Center, a 90,000-square-foot facility with two NHL ice sheets and 3,500-seats; PWC Stadium Complex, a Championship baseball stadium with three 300-foot softball diamonds and an eight-lane USA BMX Track; and Jeff Rouse Swim and Sports Center, a 76,000-square-foot sports complex housing a 50-meter Olympic pool.
To ensure the success of tournaments and competitions hosted in the region, the SportsNOVA team will provide event planners with a variety of support services, including assistance with sports-facility and hotel selection, tourism information and special offers, vendor recommendations, volunteer recruitment and event marketing and promotion.
Previously hosted events in the Northern Virginia region include the World Police and Fire Games, USA BMX East Coast Nationals, Senior PGA Championship, Virginian and WAGS Soccer Tournaments, Virginia Special Olympics Basketball Championships, and MYHockey Tournaments, among many others.
“It’s a huge benefit to Virginia whenever neighboring destinations can forge strategic partnerships to bid on and book major sports events,” said Danish Saadat, national sales and marketing manager for Sports Virginia, the Virginia Tourism Corp.’s sports-tourism division. “By ensuring a seamless planning and hosting experience for rights-holders and their athletes, SportsNOVA has set itself up to compete for and land major tournaments and competitions.”
Arlington is home to the MedStar Capitals Iceplex and the Long Bridge Park complex, each of which might be of interest to groups outside the area.
Emily Cassell, director of the Arlington Convention & Visitors Service, said the county government will take a look at how the soon-to-open Long Bridge Park Aquatics & Fitness Center could fit into the regional mix. “As the availability of the center for major events becomes more clear, it may also one day be promoted as part of the Northern Virginia Tourism Partnership,” she told the Sun Gazette.
The county government already has ties to that organization, Cassell said. “Arlington enthusiastically partners with its Northern Virginia neighbors to promote the region to markets of mutual interest, as we have done numerous times over the years,” she said, acknowledging that “our county’s small size in terms of land and relative lack of sellable tournament facilities have limited the possibilities for sports tourism to date.”
For now, promotion of the new aquatics/fitness center will be done more in-house, Cassell said.
“The Arlington Convention and Visitors Service hopes to work with the Parks & Recreation Department to jointly promote the Long Bridge Aquatics & Fitness Center to visitors, while meeting our residents’ needs,” she said.