By Astrid Zeppenfeld
We all know which places in Missouri make great destinations for big corporate events and which ones feature fantastic venues for smaller, more intimate business meetings. But did you know that several of them have also become top destinations for youth sports events? Let us introduce you to three of Missouri’s cities and their venues that youth sports leagues around the state (and of course out-of-state leagues as well!) can take advantage of when planning a meet or game.
Cape Girardeau boasts two big venues for youth league sports: Cape Girardeau SportsPlex and Shawnee Park Sports Complex. Shawnee fields are often used for USSSA baseball and softball tournaments, and adult and youth leagues alike enjoy playing there. Brenda Newbern, Executive Director at Cape Girardeau Convention and Visitors Bureau, says, “Shawnee Fields is already booked for USSSA tournaments in March and April, and one in May, June, and September. And, as the soccer season starts, I’m expecting the Shawnee calendar to fill up quickly with soccer tournaments as well.” The Sports Complex also offers football and soccer fields, some of which are lighted so your league can play well into the evening.
For indoor youth leagues, check out the SportsPlex, which features indoor turf fields and hardwood courts for basketball and volleyball games, along with concession stands and a multi-use space for team meetings and league parties. But Newbern suggests moving quickly, “We are already booked for every weekend through the end of May at our SportsPlex.”
Primary venues for youth league sports in Branson include the Branson RecPlex, Ball Parks of America, Sho-Me Baseball, and Branson Convention Center. Let’s start with the historic Sho-Me baseball camp recently has begun renovations after the ownership group of Ballparks of America purchased it to preserve its history. Baseball fields were added last year and Terra Alphonso, Director of Sports Sales at Branson/Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce & CVB, expects events to happen there this summer. Alphonso says, “They’ll be able to host leagues with older age groups than at Ballparks of America.”
The 220,000 square-feet Branson Convention Center hosts a lot of indoor sports competitions. So does the Branson Rec Plex, which is another popular venue with youth sports leagues, hosting basketball, volleyball, pickleball, ragball, baseball and softball, soccer, tennis, wrestling and other mat sports, as well as archery events.
Alphonso adds, “And don’t forget that we are surrounded by three pristine lakes, where we host competitive swimming/tri-athlon events, as well as wakeboarding and other water sports events, in addition to several annual fishing tournaments.”
Howler Bike Park is a brand new sports venue in Branson, but youth mountain bike leagues are already a fan and the Missouri girls’ league hosted a fun race there last year.
Zach Franklin, Sports Development Supervisor at City of Columbia Sports Commission/Convention & Visitors Bureau, illustrates, “From a facility perspective, Columbia is very diverse in the different facility we offer. Our premier facility is our Gans Creek Cross Country Course; it is one of the best in the country, with permanent structures that set it apart from other facilities. Just this last November we hosted the NCAA Midwest Cross Country Regional Championships and in 2025, we will host the NCAA National Championships.”
As far as youth sports leagues are concerned, Columbia Sports Fieldhouse is a 43,000 square-feet facility, with about 27,000 square-feet of that space courts that have the permanent lines for basketball, volleyball, and pickleball. Which is not to say that it doesn’t also hosts cheer and dance competitions quite frequently. Franklin advises, “Columbia Sports Fieldhouse is about to expand – funding is in place and the facility will double in size and expand to eight courts.”
Cosmo Park’s Antimi Sports Complex is owned by the city and Columbia College plays games there. It is an 8-field baseball/softball, as well as tee-ball, center.
Also at Cosmo Park: Rainbow Softball Center, which is actually an adult slow-pitch facility, but has, according to Franklin, “hosted over the past two years some pretty high-caliber girls’ fast-pitch events.” Additionally, the park offers some multi-purpose natural turf fields of varying sizes, which are used for other league sports like soccer, for example.
Astrid Zeppenfeld is a contributing writer from St. Louis.