The city of Duluth has many sporting opportunities, both for those who want to watch sports and those who want to play them.
For professional sports aficionados, the Gwinnett Arena hosts the Gwinnett Gladiators minor league hockey team. Gladiators Vice President of New Media Sales and Communications Dustin Bixby said the team is an ECHL hockey team, equivalent to the AA. It’s affiliated with the Phoenix Coyotes, so players starting with the Gladiators have the chance to move up to the National Hockey League. The team recently finished its tenth season at the Arena, with its triumphs including making the playoffs in eight of the ten seasons, earning three division titles, making the conference finals twice, and becoming the American Conference champions in 2006.
This year, the Gladiators made the playoffs for the second consecutive season, ultimately falling in the sixth game of seven to the Cincinnati Cyclones. Bixby said although the Gladiators are a minor league team, they’re Atlanta’s only hockey option. Their target market is those who just want something fun to do, not hard-core sports fans.
“It’s just a good diversion. A lot of our fans say they’re fans of the team, not hockey fans,” he said.
Tickets range from $10 to $20 and parking at every event at the Arena is free.
Duluth also has golf opportunities. From April 16 to April 20, the inaugural Greater Gwinnett Championship golf tournament took place at the private golf club TPC Sugarloaf. In addition to many private golf clubs, public golf is available at the Georgia Trail at Sugarloaf and the Peachtree Golf Center and the Hooch Golf Club on Peachtree Industrial Boulevard.
DULUTH PARKS AND RECREATION
Duluth Director of Parks and Recreation Kathy Marelle said tennis is one of the city’s strongest offerings for those ages four all the way to senior citizen. The city hosts ALTA for teens and adults, USTA, and recreational tennis for senior citizens. Marelle said many teams from Duluth have gone on to be state tennis champions. Assistant Director of Recreation Jason Rogers estimated 600 to 1,000 participate each year. He estimated that with growing interest in tennis, five more parks with only tennis courts could be filled up. Those interested in signing up can sign up via Duluth’s website.
The city of Duluth also partners with the Atlanta Fire United soccer league. Marelle estimated 2,500 to 3,200 people ages five all the way to adults from Duluth participate in Atlanta Fire. Atlanta Fire offers youth recreation and youth travel as well as adult leagues. The traveling teams have gone all over the Southeast.
“It’s a growing sport in the state of Georgia,” Marelle said. The city hosts the Peachtree Ridge Youth Athletic Association’s softball program. Marelle estimated 100 to 150 participate in five to six teams of 15 to 18 players. Occasionally the city also hosts Duluth Youth Athletic Association. The city also hosts the association’s baseball team, as well as baseball teams not affiliated with any association. Rogers said 500 to 1,000 participate in baseball. The city does not have its own leagues to avoid competing with the community — instead, the city focuses on coordinating with others to make it better for the whole community. The city also provides an intramural basketball program to 140 boys ages 15 to 18 at Bunten Road Park. Youth from Dacula and Collins Hill as was as Peachtree Ridge and Duluth participate.
For senior citizens, there’s the Duluth FAB — Fifty and Beyond. Not only does it feature tennis, but it also has badminton, table tennis, yoga, Pilates, and Zumba. Rogers said 300 to 400 seniors participate. The city is looking to provide waterborne recreation. In June, a canoe launch will open at Rogers Bridge Park to accommodate those who want to canoe, tube, or kayak. Marelle said it will be just in time for the hot summer season.
GWINNETT COUNTY PARKS AND RECREATION
Gwinnett County Parks and Recreation’s programs center on Shorty Howell Park. Athletic Coordinator Gary Schussler said these programs are operated by the Duluth Youth Athletic Association and include baseball, softball, lacrosse, football, and cheerleading. The association and the county partner, with the county entrusting the association with the park’s seven baseball fields and one multipurpose field used for football.“We provide them with the facility space,” he said. “We drag the fields pertaining to the schedule they give us.”
The baseball and softball offered during the fall and spring at the park ranges from t-ball to the senior league and included 654 participants in 2012, with a slight majority in baseball. Football runs from the summer into the fall and is open to those from age six to eighth grade, with multiple teams at each grade level. 251 kids participate in football, while 71 kids participate in cheerleading, which runs at the same time. Lacrosse is a growing sport in the county, with 119 youth, mostly boys, participating in the fall and spring of 2012. There is no soccer program at the park, but nearby groups like the Peachtree Ridge Youth Athletic Association or Norcross Soccer offer it.
Those interested in participating in these programs should visit the Duluth Youth Athletic Association website or contact Gwinnett County Parks and Recreation, which will get them in touch with the association. All registration is done via the association website.
Written by Matthew W. Quinn
Matthew W. Quinn is a freelance writer and editor and an aspiring novelist
from Marietta, Ga.
Duluth Youth Athletic Association
Gwinnett County Parks and Recreation
City of Duluth Parks and Recreation
Peachtree Ridge Athletic Association
Cheer and Dance Atlanta
Atlanta Fire United Soccer
The Hooch Golf Club