While some might consider Charleston and the Lowcountry a mid-major sports market, it doesn’t mean the area can’t deliver plenty of value for your money. Charleston has its share of professional sports with three minor league franchises: Charleston RiverDogs (baseball), South Carolina Stingrays (ice hockey) and the Charleston Battery (soccer).
The Lowcountry also boasts three NCAA Division I athletic programs and the Volvo Car Open, which is not only the longest tenured stop on the Women’s Tennis Tour but tends to draw some of the top name’s in women’s tennis year in and year out.
Volvo Open more than just a tennis tournament
While, the Volvo Car Open on Daniel Island is designated as a third-tier “Premier” event on the WTA Tour, it usually draws an A-list field. The top names in women’s tennis such as Serena Williams and Venus Williams have played in the event along with rising stars Sloane Stephens and Madison Keys.
But the Volvo Open is more than just a tennis tournament, it’s an event. It’s a place to see and be seen. The food, the music, the shopping make the week-long tournament a must-attend experience even for the casual tennis fan.
Kiki Bertens won the 2018 tournament. The 2019 Volvo Car Open is set for March 30 to April 7.
Let’s go to The Joe
There’s nothing like sitting at the ballpark on a hot summer night, drinking a cold beer, and watching the sunset over the Ashley River at Riley Park.
Riley Park, known as The Joe to locals, is home of the Charleston RiverDogs, the Class A South Atlantic Affiliate of the New York Yankees.
Before becoming one of the premier home run hitters in Major League Baseball, Yankees sluggers Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez got their professional starts at The Joe.
The Joe also has one of the most eclectic food menus in minor league baseball, which includes such fan favorites as the Shrimp-N-Grit Corn Dog and the She-Crab Sweet Fry.
And be on the lookout for actor and Lowcountry resident Bill Murray, a co-owner and frequent patron at the games.
It had been almost two decades since College of Charleston had taken part in the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament, better known as March Madness. Led by trio of top players in Joe Chealey, Grant Riller and Jarrell Brantley, the Cougars won the Colonial Athletic Association Tournament and punched their ticket to the NCAA Tournament this past April. It was the Cougars first NCAA Tournament bid since 1999.
Riller and Brantley, both preseason All-CAA picks, are back for the 2018-19 season and the Cougars are poised to repeat as CAA champs.
The annual ESPN-owned Charleston Classic will be played in downtown Charleston at TD Arena in late November. The North Charleston Coliseum will also be home to the 2019 Colonial Athletic Association Men’s Basketball Tournament in early March.
Fastest game on ice
When Washington Capitals goalie Braden Holtby hoisted the Stanley Cup over his head this past June, South Carolina Stingrays fans rejoiced. Holtby got his start in professional hockey with the ECHL’s South Carolina Stingrays, which is the affiliate of the Washington Capitals.
He wasn’t the only former Stingrays player to get his name etched on the Stanley Cup. Goalie Philip Grubauer and forward Nathan Walker also won hockey’s ultimate prize and played for the Stingrays early in their professional careers.
The Stingrays have won a league-record three ECHL titles and have been to the Kelly Cup finals in two of the past four years.
The beautiful game
The Charleston Battery has won four USL titles in its quarter-century of existence and its alumni of players include Major League Soccer’s Osvaldo Alonso, who led the Seattle Sounders to an MLS championship in 2016.
The Daniel Island-based club hosts the Carolina Challenge Cup, a week-long tournament that features teams from the MLS in late February. The Battery also routinely plays host to teams from Europe, including the occasional English Premier League side, during the summer months.
MUSC Health Stadium was the first soccer-specific facility built in the United States in 1999.
After making the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs in 2016, The Citadel and Charleston Southern both underwent rebuilding years in 2017. Both squads will be looking to rebound in 2018.
The NCAA will add three more bowl games to its schedule in 2020 and Myrtle Beach will be the site of one such postseason match-up. Johnson Hagood Stadium, home of The Citadel, is vying for one of the 2020 bowl games.
Just up the road in Conway, Coastal Carolina made the jump from the FCS to the Sun Belt Conference and the Football Bowl Subdivision last season.
More college basketball
Charleston of College isn’t the only game in town when it comes to college basketball. Besides the Cougars, The Citadel and Charleston Southern also play at the NCAA Division I level. The Citadel’s “embrace the pace” high-scoring offense has been among the nation's top-scoring teams over the past two seasons.
The Citadel, College of Charleston and Charleston Southern all play highly competitive NCAA Division I schedules every year. South Carolina, North Carolina, Clemson, Georgia and Coastal Carolina, which captured the 2016 College World Series title, have all made their way to the Lowcountry in recent seasons.