Enjoy the sporting life in Rock Hill, S.C.

Scenes from the 2022 BMX USA Nationals in Rock Hill, South Carolina.

Combined ShapeCaption
Riders at the start of a race at the Rock Hill BMX Supercross Track. Courtesy of City of Rock Hill.

Football is on hold, but there’s lots of cornhole, disc golf and cycling action.

In 2020, the Carolina Panthers announced plans to move their headquarters and training facility, including a new sports complex with entertainment, dining and retail space, to a 240-acre site in Rock Hill, South Carolina. It was scheduled to open summer 2023. But in April, when the facility was half built, the Panthers terminated their agreement with the city and abandoned the project.

It was a major blow to Rock Hill, home to 117,000 people on the Catawba River, 25 miles south of Charlotte, North Carolina. The town has been working diligently to position itself as a destination for sports tourism. But all is not lost because there are several other sports happy to base their operations and major events in the “Gateway to South Carolina.”

Take, for instance, cornhole. The popular lawn game played at home get-togethers, tailgates and breweries, where players toss bean bags through a hole in raised boards set 30 feet away, is more than a party game. Founded in 2015, the American Cornhole League (ACL) was created by tailgate enthusiast and entrepreneur, Stacey Moore, as a governing body for professional, competitive and recreational cornhole.

Combined ShapeCaption
American Cornhole League World Championships will be held Aug. 1-7 at the Rock Hill Sports & Event Center. Courtesy of American Cornhole League.

Credit: Handout

American Cornhole League World Championships will be held Aug. 1-7 at the Rock Hill Sports & Event Center. 
Courtesy of American Cornhole League.

Credit: Handout

Combined ShapeCaption
American Cornhole League World Championships will be held Aug. 1-7 at the Rock Hill Sports & Event Center. Courtesy of American Cornhole League.

Credit: Handout

Credit: Handout

“After watching people play for a couple of years at tailgating events, I became convinced that I could elevate the game into a sport,” says Moore.

ACL operates more than 30,000 tournaments annually through their national staff and network of 350-plus certified ACL directors. They also have built a technology platform with automated bracketing, standings and scoring, as well as set equipment rules and standards.

“Without a strong governing body, you can only be a game, not a sport,” says Moore.

ACL headquarters is located in Rock Hill’s up-and-coming Knowledge Park area, between Old Town and Winthrop University, and it’s not just for administering ACL business. Cornhole enthusiasts gather here to play on 13 indoor boards available for public use. Like bowling, players rent a lane and bags (or bring their own) to play as long as they like. And tournaments are held five nights a week. Players pay an entry fee, are paired with partners in a blind draw, and then play as a team for the pot.

ACL HQ also features a full-service bar and sells light snacks (guests may bring their own food), music, state-of-the-art LED monitors to watch sports and a broadcast studio to air the tournament action.

In August, the ACL will host a seven-day World Championship competition at the adjacent Rock Hill Sports & Event Center. Competitors must “play in” through regional sanctioned tournaments to win a spot in the coveted competition. About 2,000 players are expected to compete on 128 sets of boards for more than $250,000 in prize money. The highlight will be when 256 ACL Pro Players compete on ESPN for a shot at the World Championship title beginning at 1 p.m. Aug. 7.

Combined ShapeCaption
The Rock Hill Sports & Event Center features eight basketball courts that can double as 16 volleyball courts, and it hosts recreation leagues, travel teams, tournaments and more. Courtesy of City of Rock Hill.

Credit: Handout

The Rock Hill Sports & Event Center features eight basketball courts that can double as 16 volleyball courts, and it hosts recreation leagues, travel teams, tournaments and more.  
Courtesy of City of Rock Hill.

Credit: Handout

Combined ShapeCaption
The Rock Hill Sports & Event Center features eight basketball courts that can double as 16 volleyball courts, and it hosts recreation leagues, travel teams, tournaments and more. Courtesy of City of Rock Hill.

Credit: Handout

Credit: Handout

The Rock Hill Sports & Event Center was a major factor in the ACL basing their headquarters in Rock Hill. Located in a former textile mill with more than 126,000 square feet, the $28 million center opened to much fanfare in late 2019 and has become a magnet for amateur sports leagues, travel teams, tournaments and summer sport camps.

The facility has eight basketball courts, which convert to 16 volleyball courts, and a 1,300-seat championship court housing an additional basketball or volleyball court, complete with broadcast capabilities.

Beginning July 7, high school players from across the country will compete while showcasing their talents for NCAA college coaches and scouts, as well as fans, at the Adidas 3SSB Basketball Championship.

Pick-up basketball and volleyball are available for a nominal fee and the walking track is available at no charge.

Rock Hill is also home to the United States Disc Golf Championship (USDGC). Disc golf is played by throwing a Frisbee-like plastic disc toward a target, and it’s scored similarly to golf. It is one of the fastest growing sports in the country, with more than 6,500-disc golf courses in the United States.

Combined ShapeCaption
Disc golfer Joel Freeman competing in the U.S. Disc Golf Championship at Rock Hill’s Winthrop University. Courtesy of Chad LeFevre.

Credit: Chad LeFevre

Disc golfer Joel Freeman competing in the U.S. Disc Golf Championship at Rock Hill’s Winthrop University. 
Courtesy of Chad LeFevre.

Credit: Chad LeFevre

Combined ShapeCaption
Disc golfer Joel Freeman competing in the U.S. Disc Golf Championship at Rock Hill’s Winthrop University. Courtesy of Chad LeFevre.

Credit: Chad LeFevre

Credit: Chad LeFevre

Featuring five days of disc golf events and programming, the USDGC takes place Oct. 6-10. Also taking place will be the Throw Pink Women’s Disc Golf Championship, doubles competitions, distance competitions and a Championship Village with food, retail, clinics and a spectator course.

With a purse of close to $100,000 and more than 3,500 spectators expected, the USDGC looks and feels like a professional golf tournament.

“You are outside, it’s a beautiful setting, you bring your family,” says Jonathan Poole, co-founder and event director of the USDGC. “Think of it as the disc golf equivalent of The Masters in Augusta.”

Another popular sport in Rock Hill is cycling, thanks to the Rock Hill Velodrome, opened in 2012 and featuring the Southeast’s only outdoor, Olympic caliber, 250-meter concrete oval track with banked straights and corners. It hosts rider development programs, certification courses, race events and open ride opportunities, although riders must be certified before riding on the track.

For road cyclists, Rock Hill’s Criterium Course is a 1.1-mile paved course closed to vehicular traffic, allowing cyclists of all skill levels to ride safely, whether for recreation or competitive training.

Combined ShapeCaption
Track action at the Rock Hill BMX Supercross Track. Courtesy of City of Rock Hill.

Credit: Handout

Scenes from the 2022 BMX USA Nationals in Rock Hill, South Carolina.

Credit: Handout

Combined ShapeCaption
Track action at the Rock Hill BMX Supercross Track. Courtesy of City of Rock Hill.

Credit: Handout

Credit: Handout

And, for adrenaline junkies, the state-of-the-art Rock Hill BMX Supercross Track opened in 2014 and has become a darling on the BMX Supercross circuit. It offers open bike practice, new rider orientation, clinics, women-only open houses, summer camps, local racing and high-profile races including the USA BMX Carolina Nationals every March and the UCI BMX Racing World Championship, returning to Rock Hill in 2024.

NFL football may not be coming to Rock Hill any time soon, but there are plenty of other ways to get your sport fix in this town where healthy competition is a winner.


IF YOU GO

Rock Hill, South Carolina, is 235 northeast of Atlanta via I-85 north to SC Hwy. 5 east.

WHAT TO DO

American Cornhole League Headquarters. $20 per hour per court, $10 per person for tournament play. Opens 4 p.m. Monday-Friday, noon Saturday. Tournaments 7 p.m. Mon.-Fri. 300 Technology Center Way, Suite 205. 704-301-8982, www.iplaycornhole.com/hq.

Rock Hill Velodrome. $5 day pass, $200 annual pass (certified riders only); no charge for spectators. 1000 Riverwalk Parkway. 803-326-2453, www.rockhillvelodrome.com.

Rock Hill Criterium Course. Free. Daily, dawn to dusk. 1307 Riverwalk Parkway. 803-326-2441, www.bikerockhill.com.

Rock Hill BMX Supercross Track. $5 open practice, $10 clinics. Bike and helmet rentals $5 each. 1307 Riverwalk Parkway. 803-326-2441, www.rockhillscbmx.com.

EVENTS

Adidas 3SSB Basketball Championship. July 6-12. $20. Rock Hill Sports & Event Center, 326 Technology Center Way. 803-329-5675, www.rockhilleventcenter.com, www.3ssbcircuit.com.

2022 ACL World Championships. Aug. 1-7. Rock Hill Sports & Event Center. $10-$50. iplaycornhole.com/event/21-22/national/world.

U.S. Disc Golf Championship. Opening ceremonies Oct. 5, golf Oct. 6-10. $20, $60 four-day VIP pass. Winthrop Coliseum, 1162 Eden Terrace. 803-366-5028, www.usdgc.com.

WHERE TO STAY

Cambria Hotel Rock Hill. Upscale chain hotel in Knowledge Park. $129 and up. 354 Technology Center Way. 803-324-0004, www.choicehotels.com/south-carolina/rock-hill/cambria-hotels/sc579.

East Main Guest House. Charming bed and breakfast in the East Town Historic District. $149 and up, including breakfast. 600 E. Main St. 803-366-1161, www.eastmainguesthouse.com.

WHERE TO EAT

Old Town Kitchen & Cocktails. Reimagined nostalgic menu in the heart of Knowledge Park. $18-$32 entrees. 300 Technology Center Way, Suite 203. 803-980-6852, www.oldtownrockhill.com.

The Flipside Restaurant. Comfort food served with a laid back, neighborhood vibe. $18-$28 entrees. 129 Caldwell St. 803-324-3547, www.theflipsiderestaurant.com.

Kounter. Whimsical cuisine with an historic backdrop. $15-$29 entrees. 135 E. Main St. 803-328-7333, www.kounterdining.com.

TOURIST INFO

Rock Hill/York County Visitors Center. 130 E. Main St. 803-329-5200. www.visityorkcounty.com.