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Inside Events: The Huntsman World Senior Games

8 Jan, 2020

By: Mary Helen Sprecher
An Interview with Kyle M. Case, CEO

seniorgames.net

The Huntsman World Senior Games, an international multi-sport event for athletes age 50 and up, have been in existence since 1987. They are presented annually in St. George, Utah, and include competitions for both teams and individuals. A list of sports can be found here. In addition to athletic events, the Games include health screenings, social events, concerts, dances and more, designed to create a positive visitor experience. The next Games will be presented October 5-17, 2020.

Sports Destination Management: It has been almost three years since we last visited with the Huntsman World Senior Games. What sort of changes have you made to the event?

Kyle Case: We added some brand-new sports in 2019. The first was handgun shooting. We’ve had shooting sports before, but this was our first time with handgun, and we had a great response from both men and women. The second was trail running. We’ve been watching that sport grow and evolve over the years.

SDM: Utah is a great place to host that.

Case: We’ve got incredible opportunities for trail running – there are so many potential trails to use. It’s definitely a good fit.

SDM: What’s new for 2020?

Case: We have three new sports. One is bocce, which has a unique international appeal. We’re also bringing on men’s soccer; we’ve offered women’s soccer but we’re hosting men’s teams too this year. The third thing we’re offering is an indoor rowing event. That was an offshoot of the CrossFit surge and brings in the functional fitness trend, which is another thing on our list that we’re watching and looking at.

SDM: Athletes are eligible to compete when they turn 50. Are there any sports that have a hard time recruiting that first-time demographic, or the 50-something age group in general?

Case: We offer a couple of sports that, if we’re being honest, are struggling to get new athletes. Racewalking is one we’ve had for a long time; it was featured in the very first modern Olympics Games. It has a great tradition and history but for some reason, it’s always challenging to get younger people involved in it. We introduced powerwalking, which is a different sport, a few years ago; we’re really seeing that grow and expand.

SDM: What sports have been in decline?

Case: Lawn bowls has contracted; they need new athletes. Horseshoes continues to be a fairly strong showing but nationally, it is struggling to keep growth. Even as some sports contract, though, new ones take their place.

SDM: Have you taken any sports out of the 2020 iteration of the Games?

Case: We haven’t cut any sports yet.

SDM: One of the things that makes the Huntsman World Senior Games unique is that it does not move around.

Case: No, it stays in St. George.

SDM: Does that make it easier, venue-wise? You can always come back to what you know worked well for you in the past.

Case: It does. At the same time, if we need a venue for new sports, we’re always looking for availability, safe clearances and whether they meet the standards of the national governing body.

SDM: What is attendance like?

Case: Last year, we sent an attendance record of 11,179 total athletes. That is especially good when you consider that 2019 was also the year for National Senior Games in Albuquerque.

SDM: What is the economic impact of the Huntsman World Senior Games?

Case: We use a little bit of a simplified formula to determine impact. Last year, it was $15.7 million; if you want to be exact, it was $15,773,000.

SDM: That is excellent. What do you think keeps it so strong?

Case: On average, we see our athletes tend to stay a little longer because they take part in competitions in multiple age groups. They have a 6.1-day average stay which is significant. We are also in a beautiful area where people can take advantage not just of the traditional competitions but of things like hikes, golf and other attractions.

SDM: Are the athletes bringing additional people – family members or friends – when they travel in?

Case: We do track that, and we’ve found that each athlete brings statistically a half-person when they travel. Part of what goes into that is the number of teams we have competing; there’s a support and social aspect. We do allow an opportunity for those who are coming in to support the athletes; we have fan registration, so that people can get benefits from attending without participating in sports.  

SDM: What would you say the biggest challenge is?

Case: It’s hard to communicate to people that our event is for age 50 and above. Many people in their fifties do not consider themselves senior citizens. We try to show that it’s just a different label for athletes. We feel strongly about the concept of active aging and we love being a part of that. We love hearing athletes say our Games have helped them set a goal and that’s why they get up, go to the pool, etc. That is something we’re excited about and proud of. It’s not just a three-day tournament in October; it’s an incentive to them.

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