State Games of America | Sports Destination Management

State Games of America

Jun 13, 2018 | By: Mary Helen Sprecher
An Interview with Eric Engelbarts II, CSEE, CTA, President

State Games of America:

National Congress of State Games:

The State Games of America, a biennial, Olympic-style event, features competitions between the State Games medal winners (gold, silver and bronze) from across the United States. It is organized by the National Congress of State Games. A total of 29 states conduct or organize State Games, and in 2017, the event hosted 12,000 athletes from 47 states as well as the District of Columbia, Canada and the Virgin Islands, competing in 47 sports hosted at 35 venues across West Michigan.

The Games are divided into Medal Sports (in which athletes need to have medaled in a state games event) and Participation Sports (athletes do not need to have medaled in order to participate; however, they do need to have participated in that sport at the state level). A list of sports is found here.

Sports Destination Management: How old is the State Games of America?

Photo courtesy of Ashleigh Mowers

Eric Englebarts: It is. Our first event was held in 1999. It has continued to grow and add momentum each and every time we host it.

SDM: What are the most popular sports?

Engelbarts: One of the most well-attended is our figure skating, which is a partnership with U.S. Figure Skating and the Ice Skating Institute. We work with both those organizations.

SDM: What if an athlete wants to compete in a particular sport but either their state does not offer state games, or their state games do not offer that sport?

Engelbarts: As an athlete, you would have to go through an actual member program, which means you would go to a different state, and participate in their state games, one that does offer competition, or competition in the state you want.

SDM: Are there other ways to be eligible?

Engelbarts: Yes, if you’ve medaled at a previous member state program in the previous two years, you are eligible to compete in the State Games of America. All medalists from any previous State Games of America are also eligible to compete.

SDM: Where is the next State Games of America being held?

Engelbarts: It will be in Lynch burg, Virginia, in 2019. After that, we’ll be in Ames, Iowa, in 2021.

SDM: When do you begin looking for sites for the next Games after that?

Engelbarts: We’ll launch our RFP in the fall.

SDM: What do you look for in an event? Does it need to be a state that already sponsors state games?

Engelbarts: Being in a state that sponsors state games is not a requirement but it does make hosting more complicated. In all reality, we need a state that is a strong member of the national congress to host it because you’ll be working in conjunction with that state games program.

SDM: What about other states that might not necessarily host a state games, but have hosted other large events, such as senior or masters games?

Engelbarts: You could be a state that has hosted a strong, established multi-sport event, but even with that, we would look for recommendations at the state games level.

SDM: Assuming a state does host state games, what else do you consider?

Engelbarts: Venues – it does come down to venues. We all want to put on a good event at the state level but you’ll expect more at the national level. Another factor is geographical location. If the event has been on the East Coast for the last couple of cycles, for example, maybe it’s time to head out West. And since people travel with their families, we’re also looking for what there is to do outside of the competition. People always want to know what attractions there are and where they can go to eat, for example.

Image courtesy of Cal Fagley

SDM: What demographic participates, or does it depend on the sport?

Engelbarts: There really are all ages and ability levels. The strongest market is middle school to high school age. Then it seems like adults skip right over it and we go straight to the seniors.

SDM: What kind of economic impact do you see?

Engelbarts: It really floats all over the place. In Grand Rapids and West Michigan, we had $10 million. In Lincoln in 2015, we had closer to $25 million. We used 5,500 room nights.

SDM: That’s significant. Are you currently taking registration for the 2019 Games?

Engelbarts: No, there really isn’t anything on the website right now. At the moment, our big push is on getting more state games in states that currently don’t offer them. Currently, we have 29 full members and an additional six that are in development phase. We want to get those up and running.

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