Top five cities for sports events

June 28, 2017 / by Jesse Ghiorzi

It seems like the same cities are always in play for Final Fours, Super Bowls and other major sports events. There are plenty of rankings of the best sports towns, but I wanted to take a look at the bigger picture from the business perspective. Let’s try to get in the minds of a sanctioning body, league or promoter and see what they’re considering when picking a host city. Here are my top five picks for the best American sports towns for major events.

New Orleans

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  • Venues: 7
    • The Mercedes-Benz Superdome is a classic, if a little old. But it’s still good enough to host Super Bowls and Final Fours. The Smoothie King Center is right next door and has some very solid amenities.
  • Location: 9
    • It’s not a moderate walk from the venues to the French Quarter, but it is doable (1.5 miles). A good amount of hotels on both sides of the river and lots of fun house rentals are available.
  • Atmosphere: 10
    • There’s always something going on from festivals to music, food and culture. Any time you go there for an event, you know you’ll have something to do in between games.
  • Big Business: 1 (Fortune 500 company with headquarters in the city)
    • Large companies aren’t the only ones who can spend on sponsorships, high-end tickets and parties. The thought here, was the number of Fortune 500 companies located in the city was a harbinger for its role in big business. New Orleans gets a pass here b/c it’s such a massive tourism hub, people are dying to spend big bucks in the Big Easy.

Indianapolis

  • Venues: 8
    • Lucas Oil Stadium and Bankers Life Fieldhouse are new enough to have all the suites, scoreboards and amenities you want, but styled in a way that feels like they’ve been around forever. White River State Park is a perfect location for outdoor concerts or other shoulder programing for a major event. Bonus points for having a domed stadium. Home of the nation’s first sports tourism bureau!
  • Location: 8
    • There are plenty of places to eat and drink from fun dives to fine dining within a short walk of Indy’s stadiums. There are several walkable neighborhoods near the stadiums that are exciting but not overwhelming. It’s a hub for amateur sports organizations like the NCAA, USA Gymnastics, USA Track & Field, USA Football and USA Diving.
  • Atmosphere: 7
    • The most low key of all the cities on the list – and the one I currently call home – gets up for big events. There’s a different vibe here during the weekend of the Indy 500, or when the Final Four is in town. It doesn’t have the every day feel of Chicago or New Orleans, but feels sort of similar once the event is upon us.
  • Big Business: 6
    • Just a few more than New Orleans, but not as many as some of its Midwest counterparts.

Dallas

  • Venues: 10
    • Jerryworld, American Airlines Center and Globe Life Park are all very sweet. With two of the more powerful and savvy owners in Mark Cuban and Jerry Jones, the amenities in each stadium are top notch.
  • Location: 8
    • The one thing not to love here is like everything in Texas, the commutes are big if you’re headed to Arlington from Dallas or points north. The AAC has lots of good bars nearby, but you’re a bit out of the way if you’re at the ballpark in Arlington.
  • Atmosphere: 9
    • The Big D has a big city vibe for sure, there’s plenty to do from art to history and more. The weather is milder than Chicago or Indy, but can get a bit hot in the summer.
  • Big Business: 19
    • It’s not New York, but it’s in the same conversation as Chicago when it comes to large companies.

Phoenix

  • Venues: 9
    • It has four major sports (like Chicago), but with newer stadiums and each team has its own venue. The natural grass field the Cardinals play on rolls out of the stadium to soak up some sun, then rolls inside for game time. Amazing!
  • Location: 8
    • The football and hockey stadiums are out in Glendale (25 minutes from downtown), but have some entertaining areas built around them. Baseball and basketball facilities are downtown and easy to access from anywhere in the city
  • Atmosphere: 10
    • Great golf, sunny nearly 300 days a year, lots of beautiful landscapes for hiking and biking. It’s going to be nice when you’re there, so that’s a bonus that other cities can’t promise.
  • Big Business: 4
    • All the local stadiums have title sponsors (Jobing.com Arena, University of Phoenix Stadium, Chase Field, US Airways Center) and there are a handful of Fortune 500 companies though the city lost one last year after the US Airways and American Airlines merger.

Chicago

  • Venues: 8
    • They have all the types of arenas you’d need – baseball, hockey, basketball, football, soccer – though none are that new. Soldier field alone has hosted football, hockey and soccer recently. Pretty impressive for an older stadium.
  • Location: 9
    • Depending on the stadium, the neighborhood changes. Soldier Field has some great spots not too far from it, Wrigley Field has a whole neighborhood named after it that’s full of bars and restaurants. It’s #3 on the list of cities with most hotels in the US (after Vegas and Orlando) and therefore has the most of any on this list. Mass transit is a piece of cake here.
  • Atmosphere: 8
    • The weather can impact travel and events so a Super Bowl at Soldier Field probably isn’t happening anytime soon. However, there are few cities with a big city feel like Chicago has. There’s always something to do.
  • Big Business: 21
    • Lots of huge companies, and plenty of satellite offices in the Second City. There’s no shortage of brands to spend a pretty penny on and around big sporting events.

None of these cities are perfect for hosting events, because no city is. However, these are some of the best by any measure and the top five by my criteria. If your team travels there for a game or your favorite sport hosts an event or tournament in one of these locations, book the trip, it’s worth it.