The sports universe came together to celebrate the 2016 Summer Olympic Games, which began on August 5th and concluded on August 21st in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. As the largest stage for sports on the globe, the Summer Olympic Games captivates nations and impacts the sports world in so many ways.
The Palm Beach County Sports Commission captured the “Olympic Spirit” for The Palm Beaches this summer by organizing several Olympic related training events and competitions. These events included the Sunshine Invitational Sprint Series, which featured Olympic track and field athletes from the United States and the Caribbean islands; the USA Badminton National Championships, which featured members of the USA Badminton Olympic Team; the Olympic Soccer Challenge, which showcased the national soccer teams from Argentina, Colombia, and Haiti; and an Olympic training forum for the Synchronized Swimming teams of Canada and Switzerland.
Additionally the Winter Equestrian Festival, which took place over a three month span from January through April, was a proving ground for the United States Equestrian Team, and served as host of selection trials and qualifiers for the Olympic Games. Palm Beach County became a gathering place for athletes and national teams to train and prepare for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
The Sunshine Invitational Sprint Series
The Sunshine Invitational Sprint Series, an international track and field meet, made two stops in Palm Beach County. The Palm Beach County Sports Commission partnered with Behind the Athlete Sports Academy, Inc. (Palm Beach County based track & field club) to host the Sunshine Invitational Sprint Series at Cardinal Newman High School on May 4 and June 18. This event attracted over 100 track and field athletes, including Olympians preparing for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio. A Sprint Series is comprised of 6 track events and 1 field event. Palm Beach County’s meet consisted of events that ranged from the 100 to 800 meters sprints/hurdles and the long jump. Athletes from the United States, Jamaica, Aruba, Bonaire, Curacao and the Bahamas competed.
USA Badminton National Championships
The Palm Beach County Sports Commission partnered with the Florida Badminton Association to host the USA Badminton National Championship on June 3-5, 2016 at the Palm Beach County Convention Center. The event featured the best American men and women badminton players, including members of the United States Olympic team. Olympic athletes not only competed for a National Championship, but utilized our destination as an opportunity to prepare for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio. This event represented the USA Badminton National Championships’ debut in Florida and only its second appearance on the east coast of the United States within the last 20 years.
Olympic Soccer Challenge
The Palm Beach County Sports Commission partnered with Florida Atlantic University (FAU) to host the Olympic Soccer Challenge. The Olympic Soccer Challenge featured Olympic-bound teams, including the top ranked team in the world, which competed in two epic soccer matches at FAU Stadium in Boca Raton. The first match at FAU Stadium took place on July 21 and featured the Olympic teams of Argentina and Colombia, and on July 24, Argentina played Haiti. These nations represent a hotbed for soccer. Argentina is the top ranked team on the globe according to the FIFA world rankings while Colombia is ranked #3 in the world. Haiti is home to an emerging team that is leaving a proud footprint for its nation.
In addition to playing in the two marquee soccer games at FAU Stadium, Argentina’s national soccer team trained for the 2016 Summer Olympic Games over a 10 day span in Palm Beach County, which began on July 17. The training took place on the campus of Florida Atlantic University.
Synchronized Swimming Training
The Palm Beach County Sports Commissionorganized a synchronized swimming Olympic training camp for The Palm Beaches. The synchronized swimming teams of Canada and Switzerland trained at the Boca Raton High School Aquatic Complex from July 19th to August 8th. These teams are dominant in their sport and were preparing for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio.
Winter Equestrian Festival
During the winter and spring months, the Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF), took place at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center from January 13 through April 3, 2016. The 2016 edition of the Winter Equestrian Festival is where the top American show jumpers were competing to prove they’re worthy of being chosen for the U.S. Olympic team. Additionally, WEF brings members of national teams from around the world to compete. In 2016, WEF consisted of several Olympic trials and qualifiers. In all, riders from 33 countries and all 50 U.S. states participated at WEF.
Palm Beach County is a premier sports community. Being recognized as a training ground for Olympic teams and athletes further demonstrates our Sports Commission’s relevance in the sports travel industry. The Palm Beaches deserves a gold medal for its prowess as sports destination.
Palm Beach County was home to one of the largest and most prestigious youth soccer events in the United States. The American Youth Soccer Organization (AYSO) partnered with the Palm Beach County Sports Commission to host its National Games at the International Polo Club in Wellington, from July 5-10, 2016.
The 2016 AYSO National Games represents the largest youth soccer tournament to take place in The Palm Beaches. AYSO invited over 200 teams, consisting of more than 4,000 athletes and 10,000 total visitors, to participate in the National Games, making this one of the most renowned soccer events in the United States. The participating teams contended for titles in boy’s and girl’s divisions, featuring a variety of age groups (Under 10 to Under 19). Over 1,200 soccer games occurred at the International Polo Club during the event.
Hosting the “games” was a landmark occasion for the entire state of Florida. Palm Beach County is the only destination in Florida to host the AYSO National Games.
The International Polo Club is a remarkable venue that maintains over 300 acres of land, consisting of nine (9) polo fields. The venue was a key ingredient in Palm Beach County’s successful bid. This venue allowed for a layout that showcased more than 30 contiguous soccer fields.
The AYSO National Games is much more than just a soccer tournament. The AYSO Youth Festival took place at the Rapids Water Park in the City of Riviera Beach where over 3,500 of the participants enjoyed the Rapids. Unique to the AYSO National Games is SoccerFest. At SoccerFest, all of the players are shuffled into new teams according to age level and play in a series of friendly games, giving everyone a chance to get to know each other before they take the field and start the “official” competition.
Very few communities have the privilege and ability to host the AYSO National Games, which transforms destinations into a soccer hub. The AYSO National Games provided colossal tourism benefits for Palm Beach County. The event generated over 12,000 hotel room nights and more than $8 million in direct visitor spending.
The American Youth Soccer Organization is one of the most admired associations promoting soccer in the United States. AYSO was established in 1964 and is the oldest national youth soccer organization in the United States. Few amateur sports events rival the impact and prestige of this biennial event.
History was made when Cal Ripken Baseball brought its World Series for the 10 year old age group to Palm Beach County in August. The Palm Beach Gardens Youth Athletic Association (PBGYAA) and the Palm Beach County Sports Commission partnered to host the Cal Ripken Baseball 10U World Series at Gardens Park. This represents the first Cal Ripken Baseball World Series to take place in The Palm Beaches.
Cal Ripken World Series are considered to be one of the most prestigious stages for little league baseball players. The Cal Ripken League is a national baseball division of the Babe Ruth League for youth players (ages 4 to 12) that include local interleague play as well as a postseason tournament tract that features a district tournament, state tournament, regional tournament and a World Series. The Cal Ripken 10U World Series took place from August 4-12, and a total of 12 teams competed in the World Series. These teams included eight (8) regional winners (Southeast, Middle Atlantic, New England, Ohio Valley, Midwest Plains, Pacific Northwest, Pacific Southwest and Southwest), State Champion from Florida, the Host team (Palm Beach Gardens) and two (2) at-large teams. The tournament consisted of pool play within two (2) different divisions (National and American) over the first five (5) days. Every team played a minimum of four (4) games. The top three (3) teams from the American and National divisions advanced to the single elimination phase. When it was all over, the Southeast regional team defeated New England to become World Champions.
Gardens Park was home to one of the greatest little league events in the country. This facility is one of the premier youth baseball complexes in Palm Beach County and maintains 8 lighted youth fields and 7 batting cages.
The event generated a tremendous tourism impact. Families and friends of the participating youth players traveled from across the nation, impacting hotels and creating a huge economic boost to the community.
The 23rd U.S. Open of Water Skiing will take place at the iconic waterski lakes of Okeeheelee Park on September 30 and October 1. The U.S. Open of Water Skiing is a thrilling display of three-event skiing at its best. The world’s top athletes, including several current world-record holders, will headline this action packed competition. This prestigious event will feature 100 of the world’s elite men and women professional slalom, jump and trick water skiers. They will compete for $55,000 in cash prizes and the opportunity to be crowned U.S. Open Champion, which is one of the most coveted titles in water skiing.
Preliminary rounds will be held on Friday, September 30th followed by the final rounds on Saturday, October 1st. Admission for all competition days is free to the public. Spectators will enjoy autograph signings, exhibitors, prize giveaways and more.
The Palm Beach County Sports Commission and the Ski Club of the Palm Beaches is partnering with USA Water Ski to produce the U.S. Open of Water Skiing. After conducting the U.S. Open of Water Skiing in Orlando for several years, USA Water Ski will bring this event to Palm Beach County for the first time. USA Water Ski is the national governing body of organized water skiing in the United States.
Okeeheelee Park, a 900-acre county park, is home to a world-class waterskiing facility. Its waters have been a haven for both professional and amateur skiers for over twenty years. There are five freshwater ski lakes custom-designed for competition waterskiing, one of which is lighted. Four of the five lakes feature slalom courses, while one lake is dedicated to jumping and wakeboarding.