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Sports Venues a Hot Option for Charlotte Meetings Groups

Sporting events score high for the economies of North Carolina’s Charlotte and neighboring Cabarrus County. 

Major league action includes the NFL’s Carolina Panthers, NBA’s Charlotte Hornets and NASCAR races at Charlotte Motor Speedway. The city offers professional soccer and lacrosse as well as Minor League Baseball and hockey. International soccer and golf events are also economic generators, along with collegiate qualifiers and championships.  

Amateur sports also produce substantial impact. Around 550 events have attracted more than 2.5 million people to the destination over the past four years, generating more than half of Visit Charlotte’s room night production at 730,000-plus rooms.

“Charlotte is quickly becoming the ultimate sports destination in the South,” said Mike Butts, vice president of sales for the CRVA and executive director of Visit Charlotte. “We host more than 200 professional sporting events each year, as well as many amateur, college and youth events, so it feels like there’s always a game to attend. Easy to reach and explore, our compact city offers moderate weather, a variety of indoor and outdoor sports facilities, affordable hotels, exciting culinary experiences and unique attractions, all of which continue to position Charlotte as a top destination for sporting events of all levels.” 

Energized by a passionate local sports culture, the region offers a distinct home field advantage for planners and groups.

Game Plans 

In Charlotte, favorable scores include superior airlift and drive access for large-scale attendance, with the venues and seating to match. 

Key indoor facilities include the 550,000-square-foot Charlotte Convention Center. Host venue for the 7,000-plus attendee American Football Coaches Association Convention this January, the Center’s 280,000 square feet of exhibit space is often utilized for basketball, volleyball and other sporting events. Cheerleading and dance groups tap the 40,000-square-foot Crown Ballroom and 35,000-square-foot Richardson Ballroom for performances.  

Home of Hornets basketball, the versatile 19,000-seat Spectrum Center hosts the first and second rounds of this year’s NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship and the 2019 NBA All-Star Game. 

Featuring public art in homage to the region’s rich sports and commercial history, the venue offers guided tours and group seating. Rental options include suites and the 300-seat FrontCourt restaurant.

The nation’s largest unsupported steel dome coliseum when it opened in 1955, the 8,600-capacity Bojangles’ Coliseum’s flexibility includes hockey, gymnastics, wrestling and basketball events.

Founded in 1912, the Charlotte-based Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA) is one of the nation’s oldest athletic conferences. Over the last decade, CIAA tournaments have generated over $325 million in economic impact for the city. Annual events include the CIAA Men’s & Women’s Basketball Tournament, which utilizes all three venues above.

Recently completing an $8.6 million renovation, the Mecklenburg County Aquatic Center has hosted the swimming portion of the U.S. Paralympic Team Trials as well as the national arena Pro Swim Series. The Center is operated by the nationally recognized Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation department, which oversees 210 parks, facilities and playing fields on 21,000-plus acres of county parkland. Venues include the multipurpose Sportsplex at Matthews, and two event-capable Charlotte treasures from the 1920s: the indoor Grady Cole Center and outdoor American Legion Memorial Stadium.

Home of roller derby action from the Charlotte Roller Girls, the former seats 1,325 for basketball and 3,000 for concerts. Accommodating 17,000 for sporting events and 28,000 for concerts, Memorial Stadium, home of the Charlotte Hounds of Major League Lacrosse, is steeped in history. 

On Dec. 7, 1941, some 8,000 fans came to the stadium to see the Charlotte Clippers, the city’s first professional football team, play the Norfolk Shamrocks in the inaugural season of the Dixie Football League. Not everybody saw the game, though--service members were called away before kickoff following announcement of the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Today, fans root for the NFL’s Carolina Panthers at 75,000-seat Bank of America Stadium, where other football action includes the Belk College Kickoff and post-season Belk Bowl. World-class soccer games at the stadium in recent years include marquee match-ups in the International Champions Cup and CONCACAF Gold Cup.

Charlotte’s Quail Hollow Club has hosted the PGA Tour’s Wells Fargo Championship since 2003, except last year, when the private club hosted the PGA Championship. 

National operator Topgolf’s newly opened facility near Charlotte Premium Outlets offers rental spaces including a 178-capacity rooftop terrace. Another Topgolf venue has been approved for Charlotte’s University City.

Hosting the 2018 U.S. Slalom Team Trials in canoeing and kayaking, the globally renowned U.S. National Whitewater Center offers white-water rafting, challenge courses, extensive mountain biking and running trails, customizable team development and educational programs, and conference space for 200.  

Rev It Up

Hosting up to 2,400 event attendees, the NASCAR Hall of Fame is among Charlotte’s top attractions, while in nearby Concord, N.C., the Charlotte Motor Speedway is the center of action in Cabarrus County. Active more than 300 days annually, the iconic venue, which unveiled its new road course-oval hybrid track, or “roval,” in January, has options for every group speed. 

Encompassing more than three-dozen annual events, including three NASCAR Cup Series races, the action is spectacular. Behind the scenes tours include on-track experiences and NASCAR Race Team Shops & Museums. Customizable rental facilities including the exclusive Speedway Club and parking lots. 

Getting behind the wheel of a NASCAR race car with the Richard Petty Driving Experience is the ultimate ride, along with dragster experiences at the on-site zMAX Dragway. Tie-in events include the Goodguys Southeastern Nationals street rod spectacular and Speedway Christmas.

Accessible via Interstate 85, Amtrak, Charlotte Douglas International Airport and Concord Regional Airport, Cabarrus County, “Where Racing Lives,” puts high performance in the group agenda.

“With an unbeatable combination of small-town appeal, big-city adventure, superb facilities and a favorable climate, Cabarrus County offers everything planners need to put their event in the Winner’s Circle,” said Cabarrus County CVB President and CEO Donna Carpenter. “Offering proximity to Charlotte and attractive rates on sporting venues and hotels, our destination is unique in the world as a motorsports destination. Our dedicated services team connects planners with local partners and venues in support of sporting events, and we offer rights-holders Destinations International’s Economic Impact Calculator, which determines event economic impact and proves its success.”

Versatile venues near the Speedway include the stadium-style, 14,000-seat Dirt Track and the Cabarrus Arena & Events Center, seating up to 5,000 and offering 150,000 square feet of event space. Groups can also go-kart around the Superspeedway track at mega-retailer Concord Mills’ Speedpark facility.

In Historic Downtown Concord, Carolina Courts offers 47,000-plus square feet of multiuse space ideally suited for events including basketball, cheerleading, gymnastics and wrestling. Home of Minor League Baseball’s Kannapolis Intimidators, 4,700-seat Intimidators Stadium flexibly hosts events.

Hosting sporting events and tournaments, 238-acre Frank Liske Park features an 18-hole disc golf course, tennis courts, boating lake and soccer and softball fields. Rental facilities include a refurbished dairy barn and silo. 

The 18-hole Golf Course at Irish Creek offers 27,000 square feet of space for banquets and meetings. Featuring the largest indoor water park in the Carolinas, Great Wolf Lodge Charlotte/Concord hosts summer cheer camps and athletic events.

The destination is also furthering its reputation for unique competitions, with returnees including the Spartan Race obstacle run; U.S. Navy SEALs’ HESCO BONEFROG challenge; and five USA Pickleball Association tournaments.

CVB Contact Information

Cabarrus County CVB

Visit Charlotte

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About the author
Jeff Heilman | Senior Contributor

Brooklyn, N.Y.-based independent journalist Jeff Heilman has been a Meetings Today contributor since 2004, including writing our annual Texas and Las Vegas supplements since inception. Jeff is also an accomplished ghostwriter specializing in legal, business and Diversity & Inclusion content.