Special Olympics will bring a jolt to GJ economy

As the Alpine Bank Junior College World Series winds down its annual appearance in Grand Junction, the city is set to host another large sports event.

For the first time, the Special Olympics Colorado Summer Games will come to the Western Slope.

More than 1,100 athletes and another 400-plus volunteers, family and supporters will come to Grand Junction for the 2013 Summer Games on June 1-2.

Julie Fite, Western Slope coordinator for Special Olympics, estimates there will be about 400 athletes from the Western Slope and the rest from the Front Range.

This is the largest Special Olympics event held on the Western Slope since it started holding competitions in 1969.

“I’m so excited that we don’t have to travel this year,” Sarah Whittington said.

For the past seven years, Whittington has accompanied her sister and niece to the Summer Games.

“It’s such a neat event, and we would never think about missing it. This year we get to stay at home,” said Whittington, who lives in the Fruita area.

The event also means another jolt for Grand Junction’s economy.

“We were thrilled to be able to welcome all these folks who have not been to Grand Junction, Colorado,” said Debbie Kovalik of the Grand Junction Visitor and Convention Bureau.

Colorado Mesa University is the host of the competition with venues at the El Pomar Natatorium (aquatics), Maverick Center Gymnasium (gymnastics), Stocker Stadium (track and field), outdoor practice fields (soccer) and the CMU Performing Arts Theatre (powerlifting).

Even with the possibility of the JUCO championship game being played Saturday night, there should be no conflict between the two events.

Kovalik said it was never a concern that JUCO and the Summer Games would conflict with one another.

“First of all, by the time we get into the final games (Friday and Saturday) at that level we would only have around 100 guests from out of town,” she said.

That means with more than 3,000 hotel rooms in the Grand Junction area, visitors for the Summer Games will have no trouble finding available rooms.

The month of May has been a busy time for Grand Junction and out-of-town dollars for businesses.

Over the past several weeks other large events in town included the Grand Mesa Invitational Tournament youth soccer tournament, the 18 Hours of Fruita bicycle race, the Class 5A state swimming championships and the HITS Triathlon Series.

The grand champion of events when it comes to economic stimulus is the annual JUCO World Series.

Based on a formula established over the years, Kovalik says the week-long baseball tournament brings in just under $1 million to Grand Junction. The tournament has 10 teams qualify from around the country, and the game attendance ranges from 2,000 to 12,000. This year’s top crowd so far was the night game on Memorial Day, which drew 11,998 fans.

Having the Special Olympics Summer Games at this time of year provides an extra economic bump, Kovalik said.

“The first weekend in June we typically don’t fill up. We normally have good business this time of year but were not sold out,” she said.

She also said when the community invests in facilities such as the El Pomar Natatorium and the Canyon View Park soccer fields, it’s very beneficial because they can host large events.

Since this is the first time the Special Olympics Summer Games are coming to Grand Junction, Kovalik said she can’t estimate a dollar amount of what it will bring in to the local economy.

The opening ceremonies are scheduled for Saturday at
10 a.m.



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