Thousands of amateur athletes will move into the area for the next five days to compete in events throughout Bryan-College Station in this year’s Games of Texas.
Competition begins today, and the majority of the events will kick off tomorrow and continue through Monday. The opening ceremony is set for Friday from 6 to 8 p.m. at Wolf Pen Creek Park.
Local Games of Texas coordinator Kelly Kelbly described the event as an “Olympic-styled, amateur-based competition” for youth and adult athletes from around the state.
“This is truly the epitome of the best of the best statewide competition,” she said.
The governing body of the Games of Texas is the Texas Amateur Athletic Federation. The majority of the contests are geared toward athletes between the ages of 5 and 18, but some sports offer adult brackets or competitions.
In total, about 8,500 athletes are expected to be in the area to compete in a dozen different sports, Kelbly said. That’s about 1,000 more than last year.
More than half of the athletes — 4,500 — will compete in track and field events, while 2,700 will participate in swimming contests. The other 1,300 participants will compete in boxing, golf, pickleball, tennis, archery, flag football, skateboarding, Ultimate Frisbee, judo and lifeguarding.
This will be the second of the event’s two-year run in Bryan, College Station and Texas A&M facilities. To make the event work, Kelbly said, it takes the entire Bryan and College Station Parks and Recreation departments, Texas A&M staff and about 400 volunteers.
“For us, it is a representation of what we can do, the fact that we are able to pull it off,” said Kelbly, who also serves as assistant director for College Station Parks and Recreation. “Summer’s a busy time for Parks and Rec anyway, and then the fact that we can accomplish this ... we love to showcase this community and the hospitality we provide.”
The athletes who qualified to compete in their respective sports come from all over the state, she said. Some are local, including 36 members of College Station’s Tsunami Swim Team.
Kelbly said a conservative estimate of the economic impact over the two years — considering that family members and friends accompany the athletes — is about $15 million.
In addition to the money injected into the local economy from people staying at hotels, eating at restaurants and shopping while they are in town, the cities and the Bryan/College Station Boxing Club will also see some revenue from gate fees for people attending swimming, track and field and boxing events. All other events are free to attend.
Swimming admission is $7 per session or $35 for six sessions, which are scheduled Thursday through Sunday. Track and field charges $5 per day or $20 for four days with events Thursday through Sunday. Boxing has a $5 admission price per day with bouts set for Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
Money collected at the gate for swimming will go to the City of Bryan, track and field gate fees will go to College Station and money collected at boxing events will stay with the Bryan/College Station Boxing Club.
Taking after the Olympics, the Games’ opening ceremony will begin with a parade of athletes, led by one male and one female athlete carrying the torch to light a “giant flame,” Kelbly said.
Speakers at the ceremony will include representatives of both cities, the executive director of the Texas Amateur Athletic Federation and a commanding officer of the National Guard, one of the event’s main sponsors. There will also be a DJ, carnival-style games and food trucks before it concludes with a trampoline show, Kelbly said.
Parking for the ceremony will be at Post Oak Mall, and part of Holleman Drive will be closed to allow for easier and safer pedestrian traffic, she said.
After this year, the Games of Texas will move to Corpus Christi for the next two years and then go to Brownsville for two years. The area could look at submitting a bid to host the Games again in 2024 and 2025, Kelbly said.
For more information about the Games of Texas and the Texas Amateur Athletic Federation, go to taaf.com/gamesoftexas.