Despite COVID impacts, the Greater Raleigh Sports Alliance (GRSA) exceeded annual sales goals, finishing the fiscal year with 103 assisted definite bookings. In total, the 103 bookings represent a projected 122,000+ hotel room-nights and more than $79 million projected in direct visitor spending in Wake County. Sports played a big part in tourism recovery this past year.
Events in Greater Raleigh
Worked with local partners in hosting, supporting and servicing several major events held throughout the year. Some of the highlights include:
- USA Baseball National Team Championships N.C. (15U, 16U, 17U)
- visitRaleigh.com Showcase Series
- ACC Championships in Cross Country, Men’s Soccer, Women’s Soccer, Wrestling and Track & Field
- SAS Championship
- Raleigh LaxFest
- MAPL Raleigh Volleyball
- City of Oaks Volleyball Challenge
- Swimming: N.C. Swimming Age Group Championships, USA Swimming ESSZ Senior Sectionals and ESSZ Age Group Sectionals, TITANS Long-Course Premier Meeting, TYR Triangle Classic
- Major League Fishing Bass Pro Tour Stop
- AJGA Junior at 12 Oaks
- Lake Wheeler Invitational (Rowing)
- NCAA Division I Men’s Soccer Championship and College Cup
- NCAA Division I Women’s Soccer Championship and College Cup
- Senior Softball-USA Atlantic Coast Championships
- NCAA Division II Baseball Championship
- BODYARMOR State Games of North Carolina
- MLB Draft Combine
- Multiple N.C. High School Athletic Association state championships.
In partnership with local organizations and venues, GRSA helped secure key future events, including:
- 13 NCAA Championship events (2022-2023 through 2025-2026)
- 2023 Division I Women's Golf Regional
- 2025 Division I Men’s Basketball Championship First and Second Rounds
- 2023, 2024, 2025 and 2026 Division II Baseball Championships
- 2022 and 2025 Division I Men’s Soccer College Cup
- 2022, 2023 and 2024 Division I Women’s Soccer College Cup
- 2023 and 2024 Division I Women’s Lacrosse Championship
- 2021 USA Cricket Women’s Regionals
- 2021 Perfect Game Coastal World Series
- 2021 PVA Wheelchair Rugby Invitational
- 2021 XP League North American Finals and Carolina Games Summit
- 2021 Southern Aces Lacrosse Tournament
- 2021 ACC Women’s and Men’s Soccer Championships
- 2022 USA Swimming Futures Championship.
NCAA Championships awarded
“March Madness” is returning to Raleigh, and the Town of Cary was awarded 11 national championship events across four sports. Those were the highlights of the NCAA’s Oct. announcement on future championship host sites spanning academic years 2022-2023 through 2025-2026. North Carolina State University was awarded a regional in women’s golf in 2023, and men’s basketball first and second rounds return to PNC Arena in 2025 for the first time since 2016. The Town of Cary remains the home for the Division II Baseball Championships, along with five College Cups (two men’s and three women’s) and two Women’s Lacrosse Championships.
The Greater Raleigh Esports Local Organizing Committee (GRELOC) continues to grow the area’s reputation around esports, including hosting major gaming events—a key recommendation of Wake County's Destination Strategic Plan. Multiple initiatives in the ongoing strategy, developed with esports advisory firm, Subnation, have come to fruition in the past year:
- New website section launched
- Debut of showcase video
- Augmented reality-capable public art mural
- Carolina Games Summit and inaugural XP League North American Finals booked for Aug. 2021
- Securing the first-ever collegiate esports national championship (later canceled due to COVID).
The 2020 visitRaleigh.com Showcase Series, hosted by NCFC Youth with support from GRSA, was held over four weekends in Nov. and Dec. The tournament safely hosted 1,000 youth soccer teams and more than 16,000 athletes from across 26 states. The event generated more than 16,000 hotel room-nights and $13.6 million in direct economic impact throughout Wake County and the surrounding area. Players, coaches and spectators abided by strict safety protocols built on local and state government health regulations resulting in more than 1,500 games played with no transmission of COVID-19 across individuals who attended the event. In the spring of 2021, the entire NCAA Division I Men’s and Women’s Soccer Tournaments were held in Cary and the surrounding areas. The event started in April and concluded in mid-May with the NCAA College Cups and crowning of the Men’s and Women’s National Champions at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary. The NCAA Division I Men’s and Women’s Soccer Tournaments were expected to generate more than 11,000 hotel room-nights and approximately $4.6 million in direct visitor spending for Wake County.
GRSA staff changes
It's hard to find employees these days who stay with the same organization for decades. But we have a rarity in our mix in that regard: assistant director for sports services Theresa Tyler, CGSP®, retired at the end of 2020 after 30 years of service to the GRSA and GRCVB. Theresa is a well-known figure in the tourism community in Wake County and will be sorely missed. With Theresa’s departure, the GRCVB’s Destination Services Department reorganized to now oversee servicing for sporting events and promoted Gray Henderson, CGSP®, (formerly convention services manager) to sports and event services manager.
Outreach and industry involvement
GRSA worked closely with the CVB's Marketing and Communications Department to activate the "Wish You Were Here" campaign for sports event planners along with participation in virtual tradeshows including TEAMS Conference and Expo, SportsNC Virtual Sales Mission and the EsportsTravel Summit. Emphasis continues to be placed on social media platforms (Twitter and Instagram) as a service to event organizers as well as sharing information with the local community. GRSA remained heavily involved with the N.C. Sports Association as associate director Jason Philbeck, CSEE, continued his term as immediate past chair, and executive director Scott Dupree served as chair of the newly formed N.C. Sports Leadership Council. Director Tori Collins served as co-chair of the GRELOC.