Sportstown USA

Sportstown USA

Welcome to Sportstown USA                                         
Greenville takes home the gold medal for sports and recreation.


Sports Illustrated magazine probably said it best when it named Greenville “Sportstown USA” for North Carolina.

“That was just great,” says Boyd Lee, recalling the day in March 2004 when the city was notified of the designation. In celebration of its 50 years of publication, the magazine recognized one city in each state for promoting and encouraging sports and recreation. Lee, who is director of the Greenville Recreation and Parks Department, says his city won the title based on its many and diverse offerings.

“We don’t just stick to the main sports,” Lee says. “For example, we were one of the first places in North Carolina to open a skate park. The award was really because of a combination of things.”

One facet of Greenville that caught the eye of judges was the community’s resiliency after Hurricane Floyd ripped through Pitt County in 1999. With ball fields under water and the Walter L. Stasavich Science and Nature Center destroyed, Greenville bounced right back.

“We had so many facilities wiped out by the hurricane, and we rebuilt all of them,” Lee says. “And we rebuilt them better than before.” In fact, the new science and nature center will open in 2005 at three times its original size and will feature a theater and a 10,000-gallon aquarium“It was absolutely amazing the way people worked together to rebuild,”says Andrew Schmidt, sales and marketing manager for the Greenville-Pitt County Convention & Visitors Bureau. It’s Schmidt’s job to lure events to the city, and since Greenville is North Carolina’s Sportstown, it’s no surprise that athletic events are a staple item.

Greenville has been the host of the annual Girls Babe Ruth Softball Championships on a national and regional level, the North Carolina Youth Soccer Association Tournament, the Beast of the East youth soccer tourney, the North Carolina State Special Olympics Basketball Tournament, the North Carolina Senior Games, and the Eastern Regional high school state tournaments in baseball, basketball and football.

“These events are an extremely big draw and great economic engines for any local community,” Schmidt says. “We do quite well with the athletic market because of the facilities we have.”

The city has more than 20 parks, some featuring first-class fields for baseball, softball and soccer. Adding to the local amenities are the teams and facilities of East Carolina University, with 20 men’s and women’s programs in NCAA Division 1-A. Rooting for the mighty Pirates is a favorite Pitt County pastime.

“In Greenville, the enthusiasm that surrounds the family social event of spirited ECU games – with everyone dressed in their purple and gold – is a way of life for this community,” says ECU director of sports information Tom McClellan.

McClellan cites the national exposure of ECU athletics along with spending by visiting teams and fans as having a positive impact on the local economy.

“Greenville is a great sports town for participants and sports fans of all ages,” he adds.

ECU also opens its doors to the community for a myriad of events annually, often in partnership with the city and the Convention & Visitors Bureau. On-campus facilities include Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium, which seats 43,000 football fans; the Williams Arena at Minges Coliseum for basketball, volleyball and events such as concerts and graduations; and Harrington Field, the home of Pirates baseball. On the drawing board is a new $8 million baseball facility to seat 3,000, nearly doubling the capacity of the existing stadium. ECU also has an aquatic center, track and field facilities, soccer and baseball fields, and a tennis complex.

The city-owned Bradford Creek Golf Course provides a home course for ECU’s golf team. Thanks to “a very good working relationship” between the city and the university, a new full-scale practice facility for ECU golf is in the works at the course, says Mike Cato, Bradford Creek’s golf professional.

Cato says Bradford Creek, which averages about 30,000 rounds annually, plays host to 25 to 30 tournaments a year, including three intercollegiate tournaments for ECU.

The college matchups and youth sports tournaments are popular with the community.

“When you have these events in your city, you’re really getting a chance to watch some of the stars of the future,” Schmidt says. “We think that’s a lot of fun.”

Story by Sharon H. Fitzgerald
Photo by Antony Boshier

Information For This Page Came From
Images of Greenville-Pitt County NC.



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