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Options Aplenty for Players and Spectators

Sports are synonymous with the region. Thanks to the change of seasons and a multitude of facilities for all kinds of competition, Rockford has been dubbed a Sportstown USA by Sports Illustrated.

The Rockford Park District—which manages more than 180 parks, five golf courses, two ice rinks, two multi-purpose soccer complexes and a downtown basketball/volleyball facility—hosts rec leagues of all kinds, as well as youth and club tournaments for out-of-towners to compete in on the weekends. On the local scene, soccer, basketball, ultimate, hockey, pickleball and volleyball are all mainstays for area youth. Thousands of regional and national visitors compete in soccer, softball, rugby, lacrosse tournaments and more weekend after weekend at MercyRockford Sportscore 1 and MercyRockford Sportscore 2.

Winnebago County also boasts three more forest preserve golf courses and a hefty rivers system to explore, while downtown Rockford is home to the BMO Harris Bank Center, a 7,000-seat arena that houses professional hockey’s Rockford IceHogs. The versatile venue also plays host to sports tournaments, including the Illinois Kids Wrestling Federation (IKWF) State Finals every March.

Sports Leagues  style=

Sports Leagues

League play is largely run through the Rockford Park District and the Boys and Girls Club of Rockford. The Park District houses pickleball and softball leagues, as well as the Rockford Volleyball Club and Rockford Raptors FC (soccer) for local play and travel competition.
The Boys and Girls Club (BGC) represents more than 6,500 area youth, ranging in ages from 6-18. The four locations in Rockford, Machesney Park and Cherry Valley exist to provide a better quality of life for all residents. Additionally, the BGC runs rec and competitive youth sports programs in baseball, basketball and football.

Health Clubs and Gyms

Fitness options continue to grow in the Rockford area, including the longstanding presence of the YMCA’s ID Pennock Branch near downtown and its six total locations in Winnebago County. Peak Sports Club is another local option, with locations in the center of the city, as well as Loves Park. Of the many newer options, FitMe Wellness, The Rock Swim and Fitness and Premier Fitness utilize a customized approach to one’s fitness, similar to local counterparts Maximum Performance, CrossFit Rockford, CrossFit VisOne and Crossfit Supercell. The region is also home to many national fitness chains, including Planet Fitness and Anytime Fitness.
Locations: Anytime Fitness, Camp Winnebago YMCA, Cardinal Fitness, CrossFit Rockford, Crossfit Supercell Rockford, Crossfit Supercell Roscoe, CrossFit VisOne, Community Outreach YMCA, FitMe Wellness, ID Pennock Family YMCA, Maximum Performance Rockford, Maximum Performance Roscoe, Northeast Family YMCA, NorthPointe Wellness, Peak Sportsclub Rockford, Peak Sportsclub Loves Park, Planet Fitness, Premier Fitness, The Rock Swim and Fitness, Roscoe YMCA, Snap Fitness, Youth Achievement YMCA

Club Teams  style=

Club Teams

Youth and adult club teams provide numerous options for residents to enjoy. The long list includes Fusion Volleyball (youth), One Vision (youth basketball), Patriots Gateway Boxing Club, Rockford Ambassadors (youth basketball), Rockford Heat (youth basketball), Rockford Rage (women’s roller derby), Rockford Raptors (youth football) Rockford Raptors FC (youth soccer), Rockford Ravens Rugby Football (adult), Rockford Razorbacks (youth lacrosse), Rockford Roadrunners (adult, youth running), Rockford United (youth soccer), Rockford Volleyball Club, Rockford Wildcats (youth basketball), Rockford YMCA Rowing Club (adult), Rock Run (youth soccer), Ski Broncs, Inc. (adult, youth show skiing), and Spin-Itch Ultimate (Frisbee).

Professional Hockey

The Rockford IceHogs, the American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate of the NHL’s Chicago Blackhawks, have been a staple in the area since 1999. Nearly a decade after first calling the BMO Harris Bank Center home in Rockford, the IceHogs agreed to a 10-year affiliation agreement with the Blackhawks beginning in 2007-08. Overall, the IceHogs have helped launch the NHL careers of 84 players, including 64 with the Blackhawks organization.
The IceHogs are now the longest running professional sports organization in the Rockford area, where they’ve left an indelible imprint on the community. As the region’s premier choice for sports entertainment, the club also established the IceHogs Charitable Foundation to give back.
The team spent eight-plus years as a member of the United Hockey League (UHL), including a stint beginning in 2005 as an affiliate of the AHL’s Milwaukee Admirals and NHL’s Nashville Predators. Rockford won the Colonial Cup Championship in 2006-07. The IceHogs’s youth league lineage dates back to 2003, when it inked a partnership with the Rockford Park District to form the Junior IceHogs Youth Hockey program.

Hardball Heritage

In 2016, the Rockford Rivets will continue a long-standing baseball tradition in the Rock River Valley. The Rivets, a Northwoods League team comprised of out-of-season major college players, begin play at Rivets Stadium. The venue, which opened in 2006 in Loves Park, IL, was the original home of the Frontier League’s Rockford Riverhawks followed by the Rockford Aviators.
During the 1980s and 90s, the Rockford region cycled through Class A minor league affiliates of Major League Baseball (MLB), including the Rockford Expos (1988-92), Rockford Royals (1993-94), Rockford Cubbies (1995-98) and Rockford Reds (1999). At that time, the clubs played at Marinelli Field in south Rockford.
Women’s baseball is perhaps what the Rockford area is best known for. During the 1940s, the Rockford Peaches of the All-American Girls Baseball League were one of the first female baseball teams in the world. The Peaches, who played their home games on the south side of town at Beyer Stadium, won the league title four times. Competing from 1943-54, the team was also later immortalized in the 1992 film A League of Their Own that starred Tom Hanks, Geena Davis and Madonna.

River Sports  style=

River Sports

The Rock River, Kishwaukee River, Pecatonica River, Sugar River and Kilbuck Creek each offer a unique waterscape to ski, wakeboard, fish, paddle or row. In 2016, the Rockford YMCA Rowing Club will host the 31st annual Head of the Rock Regatta on the Rock River. The national USRowing sanctioned showcase occurs every October, attracting youth, club and collegiate teams from around the country for a waterside competition culminating in downtown Rockford.
A little further north on the Rock River is where you’ll find Shorewood Park, the home of the Ski Broncs show ski team. Based in Loves Park, IL, the Ski Broncs have been offering a chance to compete and spectate since 1967. In addition to the Rock, the area’s other rivers are often fished, paddled and explored by various water sports enthusiasts.

Golf Rockford  style=

Golf Rockford

The Rockford area has been called the holiest city in Illinois, thanks to a plethora of course options. The Rockford Park District owns and operates many budget-friendly courses, including the award-winning Aldeen Golf Club. Aldeen is a championship 18-hole course with a 4.5 star rating by Golf Digest. The RPD also features Sinnissippi (nine holes), Ingersoll (18), Elliot (18), Sandy Hollow (18) and Alpine Hills (five, youth training course). Moreover, the Winnebago County Forest Preserve operates rural gems Atwood Homestead Golf Course (18 holes), The Ledges (18) and Macktown (18).
Club/Course List: Aldeen, Atwood Homestead, Elliot, Forest Hills Country Club, Ingersoll, The Ledges, Macktown, Mauh-Nah-Tee-See, Red Barn, PrairieView, Rockford Country Club, Sandy Hollow, Sinnissippi, Swanhills, Westlake

Action Sports  style=

Action Sports

Beyond the tradition fields and courts of play, the Rockford area is home to various niche and up-and-coming sports. Located at Levings Lake Park in west Rockford, West Rock Wake Park is one of the Midwest’s only cable wake park. Rockford BMX is also housed on the west side of town, where the host club is open for riders from novice to expert. The venue has also hosted the USA BMX Midwest Nationals for three decades every summer.
Alpine Hills Adventure Park is a destination for all seasons. In the warmer months, you can hike across a suspension bridge, zip line over the valley and polish up your golf game. Once winter hits, the park morphs into an extreme winter park equipped for snowboard, skiing, sledding, tubing and more. The region is also home to four skate parks, including the park on the grounds of the Flodin Boys and Girls Club where local and tournament blading and skating competitions are consistently held.
A variety of running courses and competitions have also become popular in the Rockford area. The Rockford Marathon and ½ Marathon is a spring-time staple, while the Rockford Triathlon, Insane Inflatable 5K and Tough Mudder have also provided extreme athletes the chance to compete in the Rock River Valley.

Motorsports

Motorsports in the Rockford area continues to be a popular entertainment choice for locals and the training ground for the sport’s stars of tomorrow. The Rockford Speedway is a quarter-mile NASCAR short track venue in Machesney Park. Home of the National Short Track Championships, the Speedway has featured various NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers since its opening in 1948. Rockford’s roots in professional racing extend to the sports premier level where Danica Patrick (Roscoe, IL native) continues to compete in NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Moreover, Chad Knaus, a native of Rockford, IL, serves as the crew chief for Jimmie Johnson.
In South Beloit, Blackhawk Farms Raceway is home to road racing in the region. This 1.95 mile hidden gem sits on 216 acres and boasts a campground for onlookers and visitors to stay for competitions.

Prep Sports  style=

Prep Sports

State championships have been won by various stateline area schools. Recently, the Boylan Titans (five total state titles) won back-to-back state football titles with undefeated seasons in 2010 and 2011, as well as the boys golf state title in 2013. Most recently, the Auburn High School scholastic bowl team won the state title in 2015.
Auburn and Boylan are joined in the Northern Illinois Conference 10 (NIC-10) by Belvidere, Belvidere North, East, Freeport, Guilford, Jefferson, Harlem and Hononegah. Some other schools in the Rockford area include Aquin, Keith Country Day, Rockford Christian, Rockford Lutheran and South Beloit.

Star Athletes Past and Present  style=

Star Athletes Past and Present

The Rockford region continues to produce notoriously successful athletes across the entire sports spectrum. Currently, some standouts include Corey Anderson, a Rockton native and light heavyweight contender in the acclaimed Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), and Jake Smolinski, who is an outfielder with Major League Baseball’s (MLB) Texas Rangers. Additionally, Fred VanVleet (basketball, Wichita State University), Dean Lowry (football, Northwestern University), Danica Patrick (racing, NASCAR), Ernie Kent (basketball coach, Washington State University) and Chad Knaus (racing crew chief, NASCAR) are also in the midst of successful careers.
Past Olympians who are native to the area include Janet Lynn (the 1972 bronze medalist in figure skating), Kenneth Gould (the 1988 bronze welterweight medalist in boxing) and Ronald Merriott (the 1984 bronze medalist in diving). Some other sports greats include Dallas West (Billiards Congress Hall of Fame member), Carlos Polk (retired NFL linebacker) and Brad Ring (former Major League Soccer player, current member of NASL’s Indy Eleven).
 
 
 
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