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The Group Travel Leader Going on Faith Select Traveler

Sports Meetings: Adults at Play

Every year, thousands of adult sports groups travel for volleyball tournaments, pristine golf courses, marathons and more, making up one of the largest markets in the travel industry. Choosing the right destination for an adult sporting event means finding a place with professional sports amenities, great hotels and relaxing evening attractions, so to help planners narrow their choices, here are five sports-centric cities with a reputation for excellence.


Louisville, Kentucky

Louisville is well known for its rich sports heritage, from the boxing legacy of Muhammad Ali to the iconic horse-racing track at Churchill Downs. As a result, the city prides itself on providing sports groups some of the best resources and facilities available.

One of the most notable new sports venues in the city is the state-of-the-art BMX track that opened in E.P. “Tom” Sawyer State Park last fall. Starting this year, the city will commence two annual BMX events: the Bluegrass Nationals and the Derby City Nationals.

Cycling is another major draw for active groups. The USA Cycling Amateur Road National Championship will take place in Louisville in 2017 for the second year running. In late fall, the Eva Bandman Park sets the stage for the Derby City Cup cyclocross event, which involves a combination of on-road and off-road bicycling, and draws serious competitors from around the world. The park is one of two venues in the country built specifically for cyclocross.

Though the Kentucky International Convention Center will be undergoing extensive renovations until 2018, the Kentucky Exposition Center can accommodate indoor sports events with 1.3 million square feet of space and a convenient location across from the airport. For the 10th time this spring, the facility will host the National Wheelchair Basketball Tournament.

In addition to its sports amenities, Louisville has a vibrant, local culture, featuring attractions like the Bourbon Trail, Churchill Downs, the Muhammad Ali Center, the Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory, and the Louisville Mega Cavern.

“We have a ton of off-site venues for meeting planners to host after-hours events,” said Katie Kubitskey, marketing communications manager at the Louisville Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Portland, Maine

With miles of rugged terrain among mountains, lakes and coastline, it is no wonder that Maine has an unusually active population. Boasting more than 200 inches of annual snowfall, the Pine Tree State is a premier destination for winter sports like skiing, snowboarding and biathlons, and during the warmer months, golf teams can choose from one of the state’s 140 golf courses.

One of the state’s newest sports is pickleball, a racket sport similar to tennis and ping-pong. 

“We are one of the fastest-growing states for pickleball,” said Sheila Brennan Nee, strategic director at the Maine Sports Commission.

Though the game emerged during the 1960s, its popularity has spread rapidly over the past few years. Players can set up a game at the Racket and Fitness Center in Portland, which is also where the Atlantic Regional Pickleball Tournament takes place each summer.

The landscape sets the perfect stage for cycling and racing events, such as the Casco Bay Islands SwimRun. Originating in Europe, the swimrun competition now claims Portland as its first North American destination. The event requires an immense amount of endurance, as participants alternately swim and run among several outlying islands in the Casco Bay region near Portland.

For an unconventional farm-to-table dining experience, cyclists cannot miss the Farm to Fork Fondo, a noncompetitive cycling event in which nearly 500 cyclists ride through Maine’s rich farmland, stopping to enjoy local farm treats at aid stations along the way.

Nearby in Cape Elizabeth, the Beach to Beacon 10K race is a staple event in Maine, with registration typically filling up within 20 minutes, and follows a beautiful shoreline route to a lighthouse. Afterward, the city celebrates with a food festival.