Thousands of athletes are racing to the Rocket City this weekend for a chance to win gold.
Meanwhile, Huntsville stands to reap some gold of its own – or green – through the economic impact from the Alabama State Games XXXVI.
The city is hosting more than 5,000 athletes competing in 25 sports throughout the Huntsville-Madison County area in the state’s version of the Olympics.
“This is the largest State Games in the number of sports,” said Judy Ryals, president/CEO of the Huntsville/Madison County Convention & Vistors Bureau. “It will bring a $1.5 million economic impact and is a showcase for Huntsville’s venues.”
The 36th annual event was also known as the Alabama Sports Festival when it was created and through its first few years.
“The Alabama State Games created a ‘sports festival,’ ” said Anthony Terling, vice president of external affairs for the ASF Foundation. “There are 25 sports and it’s not just a youth games. There is competition for adults, seniors and Miracle League.
“All types of individuals can compete.”
Some sports have on-site registration while team sports have already registered. For information, visit asffoundation.org/alabama-state-games and www.alagames.com.
Also, it’s not only about sports, Terling said. “We’ve given away $300,000 in scholarships.”
Huntsville is hosting for the first time since 2003-04 and will play host this year and next, with an option for a third year.
Ryals said it took teamwork by state, county and city officials to bring the games back to Huntsville, after Dothan hosted last year.
“Sen. Arthur Orr asked why we can’t have the Games,” Ryals said. “So, Mayor (Tommy) Battle and (Madison County) Chairman Dale Strong came to me and said ‘Let’s make it happen.’
“The whole team at the CVB, Huntsville Sports Commission, Parks and Recreation did make it happen. The city and county school systems offered their assistance, too.”
The State Games start Friday with Opening Ceremonies at the Von Braun Center. The ceremonies begin at 7 p.m. and are open to the public. They will also be televised statewide over Alabama Public Television.
“The Opening Ceremonies are going to be spectacular,” Ryals said. “The athletes will march in and we will be honoring first responders.
“It’s really nice to honor that group and give them recognition.”