Tucson - Sports

Sports

The University of Arizona Wildcats sports teams, most notably the men's basketball and women's softball teams have strong local interest. The men's basketball team, formerly coached by Hall of Fame head coach Lute Olson and currently coached by Sean Miller, has made 25 straight NCAA Tournaments and won the 1997 National Championship. Arizona's Softball team has reached the NCAA National Championship game 12 times and has won 8 times, most recently in 2007. The university's swim teams have gained international recognition, with swimmers coming from as far as Japan and Africa to train with the coach Frank Busch who has also worked with the U.S. Olympic swim team for a number of years. Both men and women's swim teams recently won the NCAA National Championships.

The Tucson Padres began to play at Kino Veterans Memorial Stadium in 2011. They are the AAA affiliate of the San Diego Padres. The team, formerly known as the Portland Beavers, was temporarily relocated to Tucson from Portland while awaiting the building of a new stadium in Escondido. Legal issues derailed the plans to build the Escondido stadium, so the future location and ownership are uncertain as of December 2011.

The Tucson Sidewinders, a triple-A affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks, won the Pacific Coast League championship and unofficial AAA championship in 2006. The Sidewinders played in Tucson Electric Park and were in the Pacific Conference South of the PCL. The Sidewinders were sold in 2007 and moved to Reno, Nevada after the 2008 season. They now compete under the name of the Reno Aces.

The United States Handball Association Hall of Fame is located in Tucson.

The Tucson Thunder Kats are an expansion indoor football team in the American Indoor Football Association that is set to join the league and begin playing in 2011. The Thunder Kats will play their home games at the Tucson Convention Center. Women's football also has a stronghold in Tucson, as there are currently two teams in the area. The Tucson Monsoon are a member of the Independent Women's Football League where they have played since their inception in 2006. Beginning in 2011, the Arizona She-Devils will begin play in Tucson as a member of the Women's Spring Football League.

Tracks include Tucson Raceway Park and Rillito Downs. Tucson Raceway Park hosts NASCAR-sanctioned auto racing events and is one of only two asphalt short tracks in Arizona. Rillito Downs is an in-town destination on weekends in January and February each year. This historic track held the first organized quarter horse races in the world, and they are still racing there. The racetrack is threatened by development.

The city has more than 120 parks, including Reid Park Zoo. There are five public golf courses located in Tucson. Several scenic parks and points of interest are also located nearby, including the Tucson Botanical Gardens, Tohono Chul Park, Saguaro National Park, Sabino Canyon, and Biosphere 2 (just north of the city, in the town of Oracle).

Mt. Lemmon, 25 miles (40 km) north (by road) and over 6,700 feet (2,000 m) above Tucson, is located in the Coronado National Forest. Outdoor activities in the summer include hiking, birding, rock climbing, picnicking, camping, sky rides at Ski Valley, fishing and touring. In the winter, skiing and/or sledding is sometimes available at the southernmost ski resort in the continental United States. Summerhaven, a community near the top of Mt. Lemmon, is also a popular destination.

The League of American Bicyclists gave Tucson a gold rating for bicycle friendliness in late April 2007. Tucson hosts the largest perimeter cycling event in the United States. The ride called "El Tour de Tucson" happens in November on the Saturday before Thanksgiving. El Tour de Tucson produced and promoted by Perimeter Bicycling has as many as 10,000 participants from all over the world, annually. Tucson is one of only nine cities in the U.S. to receive a gold rating or higher for cycling friendliness from the League of American Bicyclists. The city is known for its winter cycling opportunities. Both road and mountain biking are popular in and around Tucson with trail areas including Starr Pass and Fantasy Island.

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