NAIA Men’s Soccer National Championships could net Delray Beach $1 million payout

832

A college soccer tournament with 16 teams competing at Delray Beach’s Hilltopper Stadium and adjacent Seacrest Soccer Complex could put a $1 million kick into the local economy. The National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) has announced that the 2014 and 2015 NAIA Men’s Soccer National Championships will be hosted by the Palm Beach County Sports Commission, City of Delray Beach and Northwood University. This year’s championship will be played Dec. 1-6. The 2015 championship will take place Nov. 30 – Dec. 5, 2015. There will be 400-500 athletes staying at the Delray Beach Marriott, Residence Inn Delray Beach and Hyatt Place. We also expect another 500 family and friends to be in the area,” said Margie Walden, Palm Beach County Sports Commission Board Member and Delray Beach resident. She said that more than 1,000 people are expected to visit Delray Beach for this event and the athletes will be honored at Delray’s famous Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony with 40,000 attending. “This is a great event for our city with an estimated $1 million in economic impact. We want this to be the beginning of more NAIA activities for Delray,” said Walden. Walden and the Palm Beach County Sports Commission said they also have some events planned to get the interest going with local youth that will be happening in September and October. She said to stay tuned. Business sponsor plans are also developing, with Walden saying seven local businesses and business leaders have committed and others are already showing interest in hosting and sponsoring the teams. According to Walden, Hilltopper Stadium and the Seacrest Soccer Complex, 2505 N. Seacrest Blvd., which are owned by the City of Delray Beach, have hosted numerous athletic events in a variety of sports including: soccer, lacrosse, field hockey, rugby, flag and tackle football. The complex was the venue for several major collegiate sporting events in the past few years including recently in March 2012, when Hilltopper Stadium hosted an NCAA Division I women’s lacrosse match between perennial contenders Yale and Notre Dame, and in 2013 when the University of Michigan Men’s Lacrosse team and Syracuse University’s Women’s Lacrosse team practiced and trained at the facility on the way back from Miami after competing in the Orange Bowl Classic college lacrosse tournament at Sun Life Stadium. Northwood University is an NAIA school, located in West Palm Beach, competing in The Sun Conference. The school currently sponsors 18 varsity athletic programs, including men’s soccer. She said this will be the first Collegiate National Championship ever played in Palm Beach County and one of the highlights of this event is the NAIA’s Champions of Character program that will be held for local youth throughout Delray Beach. According to Walden, during their stay, the college athletes from all over the U.S. will visit local schools, athletic clubs, and after school programs to share and to give clinics about teamwork, healthy living and the importance of integrity, education and fitness. “Very few communities have the privilege of hosting a collegiate national championship. We are excited and honored to learn the NAIA has selected Palm Beach County as the home for the 2014 & 2015 NAIA Men’s Soccer National Championships. Hosting an NAIA National Championship elevates Palm Beach County’s stature as an elite sports destination,” said George Linley, executive director of the Palm Beach County Sports Commission. “We are grateful to have an incredible host partner in Northwood University, an NAIA member and one of the leading universities in South Florida. Together with the NAIA, we are looking forward to bringing the pinnacle of collegiate soccer to Palm Beach County. Our venue, Hilltopper Stadium and the Seacrest Soccer Complex, has been home to many premier sporting events in the past, including national soccer tournaments and collegiate showcases.” The NAIA members and possible contenders for the 2014 Men’s Soccer Championship include Lindsey Wilson College, Rio Grande University, Hastings College, Auburn Montgomery University, Baker University, Ashford University, Oklahoma Wesleyan University, Concordia University, Benedictine University, Grandview University, Belhaven University, University of Science & Arts of Oklahoma, University of Mobile, Embry Riddle University and Northwood University. According to Walden, the State of Florida has welcomed the men’s soccer national championship on five prior occasions, most recently in 2005 and 2006, in Daytona Beach. The championship has since been held in Olathe, Kan. in 2007, Fresno, Calif. in 2008, 2009, Orange Beach, Ala. in 2010, 2011, and Montgomery, Ala., in 2012 and 2013. “We are thrilled to have our Men’s Soccer National Championship return to Florida,” said Jim Carr, NAIA President and CEO. “We are confident that the Palm Beach County Sports Commission and Northwood University will go the extra mile in making the National Championship an outstanding experience for our student-athletes, coaches and fans.” According to Walden, since its inception in 1991, the Palm Beach County Sports Commission has attracted nearly four million visitors to the county and has created an estimated economic impact of $780 million. For more information please visit: palmbeachsports.com.