ATLANTIC CITY — Along with a rebound in casino business, the seaside city is home to a long list of big-time sporting events in 2018.

The packed calendar is part of a conscious effort from folks looking to make Atlantic City more of a four-season destination, and could reignite the city's rich sports history overshadowed decades ago by the introduction of gaming.

Among the highlights:

  • Ultimate Fighting Championship Fight Night — Apr. 21, Boardwalk Hall
  • Pro-Am Beach Soccer — May 5-6, beach
  • Long-drive golf competition — Jun. 4-5, Location TBA
  • Atlantic City Triathlon — Aug. 11, Bader Field
  • Red Bull Global RallyCross — Aug. 26, Bader Field
  • Professional Bull Riders: Unleash the Beast — Sept. 14-16, Boardwalk Hall
  • Bear Grylls Survival Challenge — Oct. 12-14, starting at Boardwalk Hall
  • Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Holiday Hoop-La College Basketball Quadruple-Header — Dec. 15, Boardwalk Hall

"Our mission continues to be to attract visitors by presenting world-class events here," said Larry Seig, director of communications and marketing for the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority. "The economic impact is incredible on these events, but what I think it really helps us do is bring a new awareness to our destination where sometimes we struggle with perception issues in the media, unfairly and unjustly."

Seig noted individual properties are bringing in high-caliber events as well. In late February, the Showboat Atlantic City Hotel hosted the city's first professional boxing match in a decade — part of a double bill with mixed martial arts.

"It was a great event, very well-attended," Seig said, noting Atlantic City was once a boxing mecca.

Way back when

The resort is no stranger to sports — both obscure and well-known — according to Levi Fox, president and CEO of Jersey Shore Tours, and a public historian by trade.

"There were actually a couple minor league baseball teams, before and after 1900," Fox said. "And it was actually home to the first indoor football game ever played — 1931, between two college teams."

More recently, the city hosted its own professional indoor football team — the CardSharks, which folded after just one season.

The city's northeast inlet was once home to a velodrome for indoor cycling races, and the city featured the largest competitive pool before "Olympic-sized pools became a thing," Fox said.

If you're willing to count professional wrestling as a sport, here's another tidbit — Atlantic City Convention Hall was the venue for WrestleMania IV in 1988.

"As gambling becomes maybe a smaller segment of the entertainment market, sports can expand to fill some of that void," Fox said.

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