If there’s anything that the Kanawha Valley has shown over the last few weeks, it’s that it knows how to put on a sporting event.
Some pretty big exhibitions have come through the area recently, and the people who have put them on made sure to put their best feet forward. What’s best is that everything seen so far is just a part of puzzle. There are still pieces to be put in place.
The South Atlantic League brought its All-Star Game back to Charleston for the first time in 10 years, and West Virginia’s capital city did nothing to dissapoint, from the autograph session and concert at Haddad Riverfront Park to the festivities at Appalachian Power Park. Baseball’s future stars were on full display.
Then the action moved west in Kanawha County to the Shawnee Sports Complex and the U.S. Youth Soccer Eastern Regional Championships. Around 260 teams from as far away as Maine flocked to the area for their chance at qualifying for the USYS National Tournament.
After they were greeted each morning at the Shawnee entrance by Dunbar Mayor Bill Cunningham, players and spectators walked to the brand-new artificial turf fields at an athletic facility not even a year old. Volunteers flitted around the complex making sure concession lines weren’t long and restrooms were clean.
It was a shining example of how much West Virginians cared about showing the rest of the country how much they cared about being good hosts. Soccer parents were walking up to tournament organizers and offering their help, whether it was flipping burgers or picking up trash.
But don’t think the fun ends there. Starting next week, the spotlight shifts from soccer to tennis. Charleston will host the 60th Public Courts tournament, one of the crown jewels of recreational sports in the Kanawha Valley. Hundreds of matches will be played around the city, an opportunity for tennis afficionados to enjoy friendly, yet tough, competition without worrying about needing to be a member of a private club.
That the tournament is in its diamond anniversary is a testament to the people who founded it, kept it rolling through the years and keep it strong today. It’s a staple of Charleston sports that luckily has remained strong.
Speaking of Charleston sports staples – and crown jewels in Kanawha Valley recreational sports – don’t forget about the upcoming Charleston Distance Run on Aug. 31. America’s only 15-mile distance race has been part of Charleston’s DNA since 1973. It’s a unique event that brings runners from all over to test themselves on a challenging and scenic course.
Events like these are crucial to the Kanawha Valley.
It’s not just about the economic impact (though, when Eastern Regional Championships organizers estimated that tournament’s impact at $20 million, it doesn’t hurt). It’s a chance for people in West Virginia to show those from elsewhere some of what’s good about the area when so much of the state’s national attention comes from things the Mountain State would rather not advertise.
So if you’re around, why not head out and watch some of your neighbors compete? It’ll show them how much the region cares about the events they participate in. And it will show the folks from elsewhere how much we care about giving them a good show.