Visit Loudoun and the destination marketing organizations of Fairfax, Prince William, and Stafford counties have launched SportsNOVA, a regional partnership that will 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, destination partners will work to attract multi-sport and large single-sport events that can only be accommodated through a collective effort.
The program seeks to build on the success of previous regional events, including 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.
In Loudoun, sports tourism generates $8 million to $10 million each year—and fills up more than 20,000 hotel rooms. Torye Hurst, Visit Loudoun’s director of sales for sports and client services, said the regional partnership offers the opportunity to have even greater impact.
The counties have worked together somewhat informally in the past to host large events, like the World Police and Fire Games, which required more venues than any one jurisdiction could provide. The partnership will make it easier for tournament planners to find turnkey solutions.
The SportsNOVA.com website will promote the region’s top-tier sports facilities, full- and select-service hotels, world-class attractions, shopping, award-winning wineries and breweries, and convenient access to major airports, Amtrak, and Metrorail service.
The venture will tout the region’s location within a day’s drive of 50 percent of the U.S. population and major sports venues including those at George Mason University, Leesburg’s ION International Training Center, the PWC Stadium Complex, and Stafford’s Jeff Rouse Swim and Sports Center.
Hurst said regional approach also will help Northern Virginia localities to better compete with some other big players in the sports tourism realm that already are well-organized on a regional level. For example, Kentucky has the Greater Louisville Sports Commission and North Carolina has the Greater Raleigh Sports Alliance.
In addition to coordinating available venues, SportsNOVA 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.
Hurst noted that sports tourism historically has help lead economic recoveries, with strong demand following the 9/11 attacks and the 2007 recession. The same is proving true during the COVID-19 pandemic, with softball tournaments filling Loudoun’s ballfields—and hotels and restaurants—in recent week. Last week, Senior Softball USA brought in 88 teams for its Eastern National Championships.