Miami to host Sunshine State Summer Games next year
By Tom Harlan
A Miami-Dade Sports Commission official who ran the Sunshine State Summer Games is bringing the Olympic-style festival to Miami.
Mike Sophia, executive director of the commission, said the Miami games, scheduled for next year, should bring millions of dollars to the tourism industry and encourage youth and amateur sports participation.
Organizers said thousands of athletes and their supporters travel to participate in the annual event. They expect more than 9,000 amateur athletes from throughout Florida to compete in 25 sports from archery to wrestling at the Miami games.
Most of the games are scheduled for June 15-18, 2006, with a couple events scheduled for June 13-14, Mr. Sophia said.
The event will mark the first time the festival has been in Miami-Dade County since 1990. South Florida has hosted the game twice. Broward County will be this year's host.
Miami Fair Expo, Tamiami Park, the Miami-Dade County Fair & Exposition and Florida International University are to host the games, organizers said.
"Because Miami is a big city, we want to keep the bulk of the activity in a centralized area," Mr. Sophia said, adding that the games may expand into sites at Miami Dade College's South campus, Tropical Park and other venues. "We want it to feel like a multisport festival."
Miami was chosen because of the quality, availability and geography of its facilities, said Nick Gandy, director of communications for the Florida Sports Foundation, the state's sports promotion and development organization that operates the games. It is important for the games to be in venues accessible and convenient for all competing athletes and event organizers, he said.
More than 6,000 of the 10,000 competitors expected to participate in the 2006 games are to be from outside the tri-county area and are likely to stay in local hotels, Mr. Sophia said. He said he expects to generate about $8 million for the area economy.
"It's a pretty big number for an in-state event," he said.
In addition, the games typically attract visitors from across the state during the middle of the year - typically a slow period for tourism, Mr. Gandy said.
Though the commission's first goal is to pursue events that bring economic impact to the county, the event provides community children with the opportunity to learn about Olympics-style sporting events, he said.
The commission is to create a Sunshine State Games Experiences section where youths can meet Olympians from more than 25 different sports. The section is to feature some of the best athletes from non-traditional sports such as archery and fencing.
Its mission is to give children who may not be good at traditional sports like baseball and basketball exposure to a variety of sports, Mr. Sophia said.
Mr. Gandy said the games, associated with 40 state games through the National Congress of State Games, provide an outlet for those participating in amateur sports to compete with others throughout the state. It also gives amateur athletes with higher aspirations a stepping stone to national and international competition, he said.
Florida athletes who have made their way to Olympics competition through the games include boxers Roy Jones Jr. and Antonio Tarver and swimmers Nicole Haislett and Brooke Bennett, Mr. Gandy said.
Mr. Sophia, who directed the games from 1999 to 2001 and served as vice president of the games' oversight committee, joined the Miami-Dade Sports Commission in March 2004.
In 2003, Miami-Dade County officials created the commission to be responsible for promoting, attracting and soliciting adult and youth amateur sports events.
Games organizers are to finalize contracts with the facilities and work to engage the community to generate local support. "We received a lot of support on the bid-development side," Mr. Sophia said. "Now it's time to get people fired up about it."