Volunteers will be key to hosting Summer Games

In this 2005 file photo, a runner races to the finish line during the Special Olympics at Stocker Stadium. On June 1–2 of 2013, the Summer Games will move to Grand Junction and the primary venue is Colorado Mesa University, with the track and field competition at Stocker Stadium. The Summer Games were previously held at the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley, where it was held the past 10 years, bringing in about $280,000 a year to the local economy.

Julie Fite knows 2013 is going to be a little bit busier for her than usual, and that’s just fine.

The Western Area manager for Special Olympics Colorado will be one of the point people for the Summer Games in Grand Junction on June 1–2. The primary venue is Colorado Mesa University, with the track and field competition at Stocker Stadium.

“It’s such an exciting busy,” Fite said after the move from Greeley and the University of Northern Colorado was announced last week. “Without our volunteers there would be no way possible. I know they’ll come out and as Mindy (Watrous, the president and CEO of Special Olympics Colorado) said, we guarantee they’ll get more out of it than they could ever imagine.”

The state Summer Games have been in Greeley the past 10 years, bringing in about $280,000 a year to the local economy, said LeeAnn Sterling, the Visit Greeley director for the Greeley Chamber of Commerce.

Sterling said her staff estimated about 200 people spent one night in a hotel for the games.

Fite said most teams from out of town will arrive May 31, and depending on when their competition ends, could spend Sunday night in Grand Junction or head home that afternoon or evening, but most would spend two nights in town.

Fite, who has been working full-time with Special Olympics since 1991 and was a volunteer for six years before that, said the teams throughout the Western Slope were thrilled at the news they would be staying home — or close to home — for the state Summer Games in 2013.

“I can’t tell you how excited all the Western teams are,” she said. “They’ve had to travel to Greeley for years for state competition. What a treat. We’re hoping to have great representation from the Western teams.”

Fite said she has several volunteers who will be heavily involved in the planning and execution of the event, which will feature more than 1,100 athletes in track and field, soccer, swimming, gymnastics and power lifting.

“I think what we want to do is integrate some key volunteers into the organizing committee for state,” Fite said. “I have so many people who are sport-specific and are great in the Western area. We’d like to place these people on committees, and they can recruit contacts they have from the area to help with specific venues or special events, the dance or something like that.”

Jermaine Williams, the events manager at Colorado Mesa, said he hasn’t had any meetings yet about the Summer Games, but he doesn’t anticipate any problems. The university hosts several events throughout the year, and he said the venues needed will be prepped and ready to go for the athletes.

His biggest concern is a lack of student workers during the summer, so he’ll rely on the Special Olympics volunteers to help with some of the setup and tear-down the students usually do.

The track meet begins June 1, which is the final day of the Alpine Bank Junior College World Series at adjacent Suplizio Field. The championship game doesn’t begin until 7 p.m., with the track meet scheduled to end by 4 p.m., so JUCO Chairman Jamie Hamilton said he doesn’t anticipate a conflict.

His biggest concern was having the parking lot cleared and enough time between the two events for the stadium to be cleared and cleaned and concessions to restock and prep for the baseball game, which draws a capacity crowd each year.

JUCO has ties with special-needs athletes as a sponsor of Challenger Baseball, and Hamilton said it was an easy decision to work with Special Olympics.

“It’s the right thing to do,” he said.

Special Olympics estimates 400 volunteers will work at the various venues — gymnastics at Brownson Arena in the Maverick Center; power lifting at the Moss Performing Arts Center; track and field at Stocker; swimming at El Pomar Natatorium and soccer at Walker Field and Bergman Field at CMU.

The victory celebration is the evening of June 1 at the University Center Ballroom, with closing ceremonies at 2 p.m. on June 2.

Between now and the Summer Games, Fite will be busy with the various area events in all sports, and making sure the Western Slope teams are gearing up to be the host athletes.

“We are pushing to get as many athletes there as possible from the Western area,” she said. “We’ll try to get service organizations, learning centers, college teams to help as much as possible, really use local knowledge to start getting people fired up about that.”

The Monfort Family Foundation has been a primary sponsor of the State Games for 10 years, and Charlie Monfort, a board member of Special Olympics Colorado and a former trustee at Mesa, said last week he hopes the Summer Games are at CMU “for a long time.”

Fite said she and her volunteers are up for the long haul, but, she said, laughing, “Let’s get through one first.”

The Associated Press’ 2012-13 preseason All-America team, with school, height, year and votes from a 65-member national media panel (key 2011-12 statistics in parentheses):

• Cody Zeller, Indiana, 7-0, sophomore, 64 votes (15.6 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 62.3 fg pct)

• Doug McDermott, Creighton, 6-8, junior, 62 (22.9 ppg, 8.2 rpg, 60.1 fg pct, 48.6 3-pt fg pct)

• Isaiah Canaan, Murray State, 6-1, senior, 43 (19.0 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 3.6 apg, 45.6 3-pt fg pct)

• Deshaun Thomas, Ohio State, 6-7, junior, 26 (15.9 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 52.0 fg pct)

• C.J. McCollum, Lehigh, 6-3, senior, 16 (21.9 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 3.5 apg, 81.1 ft pct, 2.6 steals)

• Trey Burke, Michigan, 6-0, sophomore, 16 (14.8 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 4.6 apg)

• Others receiving votes (alphabetical): Kenny Boynton, Florida; Lorenzo Brown, North Carolina State; Aaron Craft, Ohio State; Jamaal Franklin, San Diego State; Solomon Hill, Arizona; Pierre Jackson, Baylor; C.J. Leslie, North Carolina State; James Michael McAdoo, North Carolina; Tony Mitchell, North Texas; Mike Moser, UNLV; Shabazz Muhammad, UCLA; Nerlens Noel, Kentucky; Otto Porter, Georgetown; Phil Pressey, Missouri; Peyton Siva, Louisville; Michael Snaer, Florida State; Jeff Withey, Kansas.


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