Home to the University of Florida, Gainesville is a lively college town with no shortage of sites to see and places to play. Dive into Gainesville & Alachua County’s feature to learn about the area and all that’s to come for sports here.
About Gainesville Sports Commission
One of the true pioneers in sports tourism, Gainesville Sports Commission began in 1988. “We were started as a private company before sports tourism was a large industry by a group of the public in Gainesville interested in hosting the high school football finals. We really began to grow from the partnership in 1992 that jumpstarted our efforts in sports tourism. That year, the Alachua County Board of County Commission partnered with us and began helping fund sporting events with Tourism Development Tax funds. From there, it grew and grew. Today, we market the entirety of Alachua County. Each town has its own highlights, from Gainesville, to Newberry, the city of Alachua, and High Springs,” Joleen Cacciatore, Executive Director at Gainesville Sports Commission, says.
Our Mission is to be the leading voice of the sports tourism industry in Alachua County; to add to our community’s quality of life through sports; to recruit and create sustainable sports recreation, and entertainment events that have a positive community impact; to build an understanding in the community of the importance of sports, recreation and tourism and to skillfully do so while meeting all industry professional standards and best practices.
To be a nationally recognized leader in the sports tourism industry. To be the primary driver of visitors economic impact through sports tourism in Alachua County.
Stephen C. O’Connell Center – In the City of Gainesville on the University of Florida Campus, the Stephen C. O’Connell Center is an invaluable addition to Alachua County’s sports. The 292,000 sq ft center has hosted University of Florida sports, the USA Synchronized Swimming Collegiate Championship, the USA Weightlifting National University & Under 25 Championships, and the Florida High School Athletic Association Competitive Cheerleading State Championship. The venue features multiple arenas including a main court with seating for almost 10,500 guests. Athletes will also find 20,000 square feet of open space and an eight-lane indoor pool, which comes with several platforms, a moveable bulkhead and diving well.
Champions Park – In the City of Newberry, Champions Park provides an elite softball and baseball experience. The complex is home to 16 youth baseball and fast pitch softball fields with Musco lighting. Each field is complete with artificial turf infields, Bermuda grass outfields, and dugouts. This is the perfect tournament setting, with 500+ parking spots, spectator viewing areas, concessions, and an observation tower for coaches and scouts.
Legacy Park Multipurpose Center – Yet another standout facility, Legacy Park Multipurpose Center boasts 40,000 sq ft of flexible space. In the City of Alachua, the venue features 4 full-size basketball/volleyball courts that can be transformed into a center Championship court. The center is also equipped with 4 multipurpose rooms, a performance stage, and lobby with concessions.
Sites to See
Freshwater Springs – Alachua County is surrounded with lush greenery and is dotted with over 1,000 breathtaking freshwater springs, the largest collection in the United States. Many are open to the public for sightseeing and swimming. Many visitors enjoy tubing and floating down the streams to cool off in the summer months. Ginnie Springs is a popular choice with a campground on site, as well as Ichetucknee Springs for tubing.
Explore the UF Campus & Football Stadium – A trip to Alachua County would be incomplete without exploring the University of Florida Campus. The beautiful campus is a world of its own, with over 200 educational, research, and service centers across a 2,000 acre campus. Ben Hill Griffith Stadium is open for the public to marvel at its magnitude. As the 12th largest college stadium, the complex seats 88,000+. Check out the Championship Room to discover the team’s rich history, including eight SEC championships, three national championships, and three Heisman quarterbacks.
Cade Museum – The beloved Dr. James Robert Cade, a professor at the University of Florida and the inventor of Gatorade, began the Cade Museum Foundation in 2004 to build a museum in Gainesville. Dr. Cade is most known for his research on dehydration in sports and his subsequent invention, Gatorade, first utilized by the UF Football Team. Dr. Cade passed in 2007, but his legacy lives on in the Cade Museum, opened in 2018. The museum focuses on innovation and invention with many interactive exhibits for all ages.
ALL NEW ALACHUA COUNTY SPORTS COMPLEX AT CELEBRATION POINTE
There’s big news! Alachua County is set to build a brand-new sports complex at Celebration Pointe, planning for opening in January 2023. The sports complex will be monumental in continuing to expand sports tourism in the area. The multi-use venue will be 134,000+ sq ft and feature 10 basketball courts, 18 volleyball courts, an indoor track, batting cages, cheer space, and concessions. With its location at Celebration Pointe, athletes and families will find everything they need during their stay with restaurants, shops, entertainment and a full service hotel all in walking distance.
Florida High School Athletic Association’s State Championships – Gainesville Sports Commission is hosting state championships for high school cheerleading and track and field in 2022. The FHSAA Competitive Cheerleading Championships are set for January and will bring over 12,000 people to Alachua County. This is the fourth year in a row the Cheerleading Championships will return to Gainesville and will be held from January 31-February 1, 2022, at the Exactech Arena in the O’Connell Center. The FHSAA Track & Field State Championships will be held from May 11-14, 2022 at the James G. Pressly Stadium on the University of Florida Campus. Gainesville Sports Commission is looking forward to welcoming this event back to town.
USA Artistic Swimming Junior Olympics – From June 25-July 2, 2022, Gainesville is set to host the USA Artistic Swimming Junior Olympics. The weeklong event is the largest synchronized swimming event in the US. The competition will also be held at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center at the University of Florida.
Most hotels in Gainesville are only a few miles from downtown. Many are located on Archer Road near plenty of restaurants and shopping. No matter your price point for your stay, Alachua County is home to your perfect fit. Travelling to Gainesville is simple. For those flying in, Gainesville Regional Airport is only a few miles from town and offers flights from several major cities. Additionally, Tampa, Orlando, and Jacksonville airports are only a few hours away. By car, Gainesville sits right off I-75.
“The Florida High School Athletic Association is sincerely appreciative of the partnership we have with the Gainesville Sports Commission. It is our mission to continue to build leaders through teamwork, sportsmanship and citizenship, and there is no doubt in our mind that our partnership with the GSC gives us the ability to follow through with that objective. One of our biggest goals it to find quality venues for our state championship events. In the 1970s, our Executive Director George Tomyn had the privilege of playing in the state basketball championships. He constantly reminds us that he has yet to forget the feeling he had and the “Wow-factor” he felt when he entered the venue. It was a huge deal to his teammates and him, and it is now a huge deal to the FHSAA. We believe that when our student-athletes enter the venues the GSC has to offer, including the Stephen C. O’Connell Center, they immediately think they are on the world’s biggest stage.”
– Kellie Doucette, Director of Athletics
For more information or to book your next event, check out Gainesville Sports Commission’s Playeasy profile here!