Good weather, sufficient housing options and access to a major airport were the major factors that led National Christian College Athletic Association to host its Division II Soccer Championships in Kissimmee for the first time in 1997. Eighteen years later, Kissimmee has proven itself as a team player. “Today, those same attributes remain… [but with] the increased support of the Central Florida Sports Commission and Experience Kissimmee folks, we have a winner,” says Dan Wood, NCCAA’s executive director, who brought nearly 1,500 players and fans to the city in November 2015 for the Division II Championships and will head there again in 2016.
The soccer championships were held at Austin-Tindall Regional Park, but the NCCAA has also used the 3,400-seat Kissimmee Civic Center for its Women’s Volleyball Championships. “[Both staffs] almost become NCCAA employees for the week,” says Wood about his experience working with the venues. “They know tourism and embrace faith-based events. We are a shoulder season calendar event that brings significant economic impact to the area.” Outside of game play, the NCCAA partnered with Orlando-based ministry Cru for participants to serve the local community through Christian service projects including sports clinics for youth, food-packing projects, spending time with seniors, and Christmas toy and sock drives.
If your group needs more traditional event spaces, Kissimmee has more than 1 million square feet of total meeting space spanning 300-plus individual venues. The recently renovated Park Inn by Radisson Resort & Conference Center Orlando, which has complimentary parking and rooms overlooking Disney’s Animal Kingdom, is a good option; or consider Embassy Suites by Hilton Orlando Lake Buena Vista South, where you’ll find 40,000 square feet of meeting, prefunction and outdoor patio space, plus free cooked-to-order breakfast and self-parking.
For a unusual off-site activity for a youth event, take kids to explore art and technology at Crayola Experience at The Florida Mall, which has 25 interactive stations (a bonus for attendees with families in tow); or cool off at Westgate Town Center Resort & Spa’s new Ship Wreck Island Water Park, which has a pirate ship with spray guns, multiple water slides, a lazy river and 16 private cabanas.