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2017-18 Host Excellence Awards


 By Katie Green, Manager of Athletic Communication

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The NAIA is proud to announce the second year of the NAIA National Championship Host Excellence Awards. Seven honors were awarded to championship site hosts that have gone above and beyond in the execution of their event during the 2017-18 school year. These hosts provided the student-athletes with great championship experiences that they will remember for a lifetime.

“Our hosts deserve every bit of recognition for all of the work that they put into making our NAIA Championships better each year,” said Jim Carr, NAIA President and CEO. “The 2017-18 season is no exception with another outstanding group of hosts that did an excellent job of creating experiences for our student-athletes that will last a lifetime.”

Best NAIA Championship Host – Lewis-Clark State College (Idaho), Baseball

The Best NAIA Host is awarded to the championship host who displays excellence in all aspects of conducting a National Championship and produces an excellent student-athlete experience.

“This is a great honor, not only for Lewis-Clark State College but for the community as well because of all the hours of work put in by volunteers to make the Avista NAIA World Series the great event that it is,” LCSC President Cynthia Pemberton said. “I also want to congratulate athletic director Brooke Cushman and her staff for the outstanding job they do. Lewis-Clark State takes pride in the role it plays in the NAIA, the state of Idaho, and in our community.”

The 2018 World Series was the 19th-consecutive World Series that Lewis-Clark State has hosted and the 27th overall. The institution goes above and beyond expectations to make sure the event runs smoothly. Harris Field saw an average attendance of 1,544 spectators per contest during the 2018 World Series.

Lewis-Clark State has made several upgrades at Harris Field in the last few years, including a new set of grandstands, a new 24-by-32 foot video board among other renovations to the stadium itself.

 “Lewis-Clark State has continued to evolve in their partnership with the NAIA,” said Mike Higgins, director of championships. “The new digital scoreboard, seating and Harris Field façade are great examples of continued commitment to the venue and they continue to enhance the overall student-athlete experience.”

NAIA Championship Legacy Award – Glenn Walinski, Tyson Event Center

The Championship Legacy Award is given to a person who has advanced NAIA national championships and has helped elevate the NAIA brand.

Walinski has been at every NAIA tournament in Sioux City since his arrival in 2005 (10 volleyball, 14 DII WBB, two softball) up until his retirement in December 2017. He was the primary facilities contact and was always willing to do what needed to be done to make sure that the student-athletes, coaches and fans were safe and able to have an even better championship experience.

“Glenn worked closely with his staff, local committee members and championship coordinators to make sure each event was championship caliber,” said Mike Skaggs, women’s volleyball and DII women’s basketball championships co-tournament director. “He worked tirelessly to make sure that the arena and playing surfaces were championship ready. He strived to provide first-class treatment to all players, coaches and fans during each tournament. Glenn was always available to make any adjustments that any coach or player felt needed to be made in order to improve the experience and provide maximum safety.”

Best NAIA Championship Venue – Sanford Sports Complex, Sioux Falls, S.D.

The Best Championship Venue Award is awarded to a championship host that provides an outstanding venue to house the championship event and is continually making improvements to better facilitate the event and provide our student-athletes with a greater experience overall.

The Sanford Pentagon provided a new home to the DII Men’s Basketball Championship in 2018. The Championship took place on the 1950s/1960s-inspired Heritage Court.

The facility seats a capacity of 3,200, has three concessions areas, eight locker rooms, six meeting and activity rooms a team store and three athletic training rooms.

“The Sanford Pentagon is honored to receive this award from the NAIA,” said Kevin Lampe, president of Sanford Sports. “It’s a testament to our facility and the incredible staff that makes it come to life. It also adds to our excitement about hosting more NAIA championship events in future years.”

Check out some of the highlights from the event here

 Best NAIA Student-Athlete Championship Experience Event – Catch Des Moines, Wrestling

The hallmark of the NAIA national championship events is the opening student-athlete experience. The event is expected to create a memorable experience for the student-athletes as well as being a showcase for the host city.

For the first time in NAIA wrestling championship history, Catch Des Moines put together a student-athlete experience event. The 2018 Wrestling National Championship participants were invited to the Iowa Hall of Pride the day prior to the start of the championships.

The Iowa Hall of Pride is a tribute to all the athletic accomplishments of individuals from Iowa, with over 40 interactive stations dedicated to sports.  In addition, Catch Des Moines had a legendary coach, Dan Gable there to visit with the participants. 

 “We are honored to receive the 2018 Best NAIA Student-Athlete Experience Event award – our team strived to create the best student-athlete experience possible during the 2018 Wrestling Championships,” said Greg Edwards, president and CEO of Catch Des Moines. “Events included athlete check-in and a special reception at the Iowa Hall of Pride. This featured nearly 50 exhibits that exemplify the five Core Values of the NAIA; integrity, respect, responsibility, sportsmanship and servant leadership. We included a meet-and-greet with Olympic Gold medalist and coach Dan Gable that seemed to be a highlight for many NAIA student-athletes.”

Best NAIA Champions of Character Event – DI Men’s Basketball “Teaming up for Character” program

The NAIA prides itself on providing a Champions of Character® program that promotes the five core values of Integrity, Respect, Responsibility, Sportsmanship and Servant Leadership. Furthermore, each national championship is expected to engage the student-athletes in some kind of program that promotes or provides them an opportunity to serve the community in which the championship is hosted that incorporates the five core values.

All 32 championship qualifying teams visited Kansas City, Mo. area elementary, middle schools and YMCA programs. At the school visits, the team members discussed the NAIA’s five core values and took time to interact with the students, answer their questions and sign autographs on autograph cards that were provided by Blue Cross/Blue Shield. Thanks to a sponsored school field trip program the students were afforded the opportunity to come watch a game at the championship during the first two days of competition. Over 3,000 Kansas City area students were able to attend games as part if the program.

Best New NAIA Championship Host – Grand View (Iowa), Men’s Volleyball Invitational

The Best New Host Award is given to the host that displays excellence in all aspects of conducting a national championship, produces an excellent student-athlete experience and is in their first year of hosting a championship event.

Grand View provided a great experience for the student-athletes throughout the tournament. It started with the banquet that was located at the top of the host hotel, which gave a view of downtown Des Moines, Iowa. The speaker for the event was Russel Holmes, a member of the USA Men’s Volleyball team for eight years in his 10-year professional career. AVCA Executive Director Kathy DeBoer was also at the event.

The Charles S. Johnson Wellness Center provided easy access, parking, locker room space, great playing surface and extra space for media.

Grand View added extra touches to enhance the student-athlete experience including decals on the doors and the floor (as you entered the facility), the invitational logo on the court, the padding around the net standards and on the top tape of the net. The institution also installed a new playing surface and added bleachers to accommodate for more fans.

“We are honored to receive this award,” says Grand View Director of Athletics Troy Plummer. “When hosting a national championship, we strive to make the athlete experience our top priority. The success of the 2018 NAIA Men’s Volleyball National Invitational was a total team effort and I couldn’t be more proud of our athletics staff, faculty, students and Des Moines community for their dedicated hard work and support.”

Best NAIA Championship Hotel – Hilton Daytona Beach Oceanfront Resort

The Best Championship Hotel Award is awarded to a place that has the best accommodations for our student-athletes. In 2018, the best championship hotel was named to the Hilton Daytona Beach Oceanfront Resort.

The Hilton Daytona Beach Oceanfront Resort is in a great location with several restaurants and shops within walking distance and is right on the beach. The teams were provided large meeting rooms for breakfast to be able to eat together with their team. They also hosted the Champions of Character® luncheon.

The Hilton Daytona Beach Oceanfront Resort took an extra step this year and did a great job dressing up the hotel with championship window and floor decals as well as banners and other signage throughout the hotel.

"We are dedicated to providing outstanding guest service as well as excellence in event planning creativity and execution," said Jim Berkley, general manager at the Hilton Daytona Beach Oceanfront Resort. "We are thrilled and honored to have been selected for this award."


Previous Winners

Best NAIA Championship Host

2017 – The City of Sioux City, Iowa

Championship Legacy Award

2017 – Gary Picone, Lewis-Clark State College (Idaho)

Best NAIA Championship Venue

2017 – Harris Field at Ed Cheff Stadium, Lewis-Clark State College

Best NAIA Student-Athlete Championship Experience Event

2017 – College of the Ozarks (Mo.), Dixie Stampede

Best NAIA Champions of Character® Event

2017 - Mobile Tennis Center, Mobile, Ala.

Best New NAIA Championship Host

2017 – Rocky Mountain College, Billings, Mont.

Best NAIA Championship Hotel

2017 – Mobile Tennis Center, Mobile, Ala., Renaissance Mobile Riverview Plaza Hotel