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Sports Tourism

henry-fork-park-soccer-tournament.jpg   Western Regional 2019_Photo Courtesy of Ernie Masche - HMSC.jpg   Hickory's Little League Team - Tar Heel Leagues, Inc. State Champions.jpeg

"Hickory is bustling with visitors and tourism makes a large economic impact in our community,” said Mandy Pitts Hildebrand, Chief Executive Officer of the Hickory Metro Convention Center & Visitors Bureau.  "I envision tourism to be even stronger in the future with the new public amenities like the City Walk, Riverwalk, Book Walk, updated sports fields, and our impressive arts and culture organizations and productions, as well as our evergreen science, art, historic, aviation and furniture museums and centers.”

North Carolina is the sixth most visited state in the United States and out of 100 counties in North Carolina, Catawba County is ranked 16th when it comes to visitor spending.  Governor Roy Cooper and Visit North Carolina released 2018 Tourism Impact Numbers and visitors to Catawba County spent $293.05 million in 2018, an increase of 5.69 percent from 2017.  There are about 2,500 tourism professionals in Catawba County alone.  All the counties in the Hickory Metro, including Catawba, Burke, Caldwell, and Alexander are thriving when it comes to visitor spending and all of us work well together.  

“We are a destination for business and leisure travelers and have seen an increase over several years in all categories.  Also, Hickory is known to be the place to hold conferences.  More than 200 meetings, events, and conferences are held at the Hickory Metro Convention Center each year,” said Hildebrand.  “There are more than 1,500 hotel rooms, several bed and breakfasts, and more, as we close 2019.  Fortunately, local private investors are planning to build a new hotel near the convention center.  Another local investor is updating an old mill in Downtown Hickory that will add 14 guest rooms for visitors.” 

Not only is Hickory a destination for furniture and conferences, Hickory has, and continues to have, a focus on sports tourism.  It’s all about partnership in the Hickory Metro.  The Parks, Recreation & Sports Tourism Department, along with the partnership with the Hickory Metro Convention Center and Visitors Bureau, brings a variety of sports tournaments to Hickory.  These tournaments and events include soccer, tennis, basketball, softball, fishing, gymnastics, and cycling, bringing hundreds, and sometimes thousands, to this area.

Baseball diamonds at Stanford Park were transformed to a camping ground in September 2019 for more than 700 cyclists, traveling across the state on their bicycles with Cycle NC.  This is just one example of dozens of successful partnerships throughout 2019.



For sports tourism through the City, contact Parks, Recreation & Sports Tourism Director Mark Seaman at (828) 322-7046.

Hickory Metro Convention Center & Visitors Bureau, go to or call (828) 322-1335. 

North Carolina Tourism go to