With its 1st collegiate championship, Henrico raises profile as sports destination
Henrico County will host its first collegiate title event when the CIAA Women’s Softball Championship semifinals and finals are played May 6-7 at RF&P Park. The marquee tournament, attracted with the support of Richmond Region Tourism, is expected to bring several hundred athletes, family members, team staff and others to the county.
“Henrico welcomes the CIAA Conference to RF&P Park for the 2022 Women’s Softball Championship,” said Dennis Bickmeier, executive director of the Henrico Sports and Entertainment Authority, which oversees the county’s sports tourism program. “This prestigious tournament, which will return in 2023 and 2024, adds a new dimension – collegiate sports – to our sports tourism résumé. We thank the CIAA, one of our nation’s most historic athletic conferences, for choosing Henrico.”
The nonprofit Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA), founded in 1912 and currently headquartered in Charlotte, N.C., is comprised of private and public colleges and universities ranging from 750 to more than 8,000 students. Its member institutions are located between Pennsylvania and South Carolina and include Virginia State University and Virginia Union University.
The eight teams qualifying for the Women’s Softball Championship will square off, beginning Tuesday, May 3 in quarterfinal games on the campuses of the higher seeds. The four advancing teams will travel to RF&P Park, 3400 Mountain Road, for practice Thursday, May 5, ahead of the semifinal games Friday, May 6 and finals Saturday, May 7, weather permitting. The tournament will follow a double-elimination format. The quarterfinal matchups are: Claflin (1) vs. Johnson C. Smith (8); Virginia State (2) vs. Virginia Union (7); Bowie State (3) vs. Elizabeth City State (6); and Winston-Salem State (4) vs. Fayetteville State (5).
Henrico partnered with Richmond Region Tourism to submit a bid to host the CIAA Women’s Softball Championship beginning in 2021, but last year’s event – like the one in 2020 – was canceled due to COVID-19. The county’s three-year hosting agreement now extends through 2024. Henrico was one of three finalists for the event.
“Local collaboration helps bring exciting events like the CIAA softball tournament to our community,” said Jerrine Lee, vice president of sales at Richmond Region Tourism. “We’re thankful for our ongoing partnership with the team at Henrico County and look forward to dynamic softball games at RF&P this weekend.”
Henrico hosted 160 tournaments that generated nearly $60 million in economic impact in 2021, even as indoor events remained limited due to the pandemic. The county recently established the Sports and Entertainment Authority to oversee its sports tourism program and manage its public-private facilities, including an indoor sports and convocation center under construction at Virginia Center Commons. The 180,000-square-foot facility is expected to open by September 2023 and will accommodate basketball and volleyball tournaments as well as high school graduations and other events.
Photo credits: CIAA Conference