Utah Summer Games return with new sponsor, events

Utah Summer Games, Pickleball, St. George, UT, June 2, 2017, | Photo by Robert Hoppie, ASPpix.com, St. George News

CEDAR CITY – The Utah Summer Games is now the Larry H. Miller Utah Summer Games, and will feature 38 events, including the biggest youth basketball tournament in its history and some intriguing new sports, including dodgeball.

Yep, that Larry H. Miller, and yep, that dodgeball.

The Miller group, led by the widow of Larry H. Miller, Gail, has signed on to sponsor the event and will help lead the Summer Games into a bright future, according to USG director Casey McClellan.

“We feel extremely fortunate the Miller family has come on board,” he said. “Their sponsorship gives us the ability to continue to be financially stable enough to keep the games healthy. We’ve been able to dress up the festival – things like teardrop flags across town. And the credibility of having that name attached to the Games is something you can’t put a price tag on.”

McClellan said it was important that they also recognized other sponsors, many of which have had a long-term relationship with the Utah Summer Games.

“It’s important to remember all of our other sponsors,” he said. “We still need them to be a part of things. Without what they do for us, we couldn’t survive.”

McClellan also said the Games’ relationship with Cedar City, Southern Utah University and the Iron County School District was critical as well.

The Miller Summer Games feature a few new sports, with one in particular having some fans buzzing with excitement.

Photo courtesy LHMUSG.

“We’re really excited about dodgeball,” he said. “We’ve added it for the first time this year and the response on social media and other places has been huge. It takes place Jun. 9-10 and we admit, it’s thinking a little outside the box. A lot of people have asked about different sports over the years and this was one of those. We still want to be a traditional Olympic-style sports festival, but as the millennials get involved, we want to take advantage of things that are trending.”

A dodgeball tournament was held in Cedar City earlier this year and was a tremendous success. McClellan said the event, which takes place at the SUU multipurpose building, has six divisions (men’s, women’s, co-ed, and three youth divisions). The games are pretty much as most of us remember from middle school, with matches lasting 10 minutes or until the last player on either team has been eliminated. A list of the rules is here.

While the number of teams and players participating in the soccer events is way down from a high of 180 teams a few years ago, McClellan said he was especially excited about youth basketball this year.

“The excitement and participation in youth basketball is tremendous, probably the biggest ever for us,” he said. “We have consolidated down to about two days of competition, with a minimum number of games guaranteed for each team. The coaches of youth and high school teams have really thrown their support into this and the growth has been impressive.”

Most of the youth basketball finals are this Saturday at the Centrum and at Cedar and Canyon View high schools.

Utah Summer Games, Pickleball, St. George, UT, June 2, 2017, | Photo by Robert Hoppie, ASPpix.com, St. George News

Beyond the traditional summer game sports (like volleyball, track and field, soccer and swimming), some of the other sports that are starting to garner some big time interest include pickle ball, disc golf and horseshoes.

The horseshoe event, taking place this weekend at the Cedar City Horseshoe Park, has experienced a youth movement, with 86 youth athletes participating along with their more traditional older counterparts.

“It’s not a sport you’d think would be big with a lot of young people,” McClellan said. “But we’ve got a lot of kids pitching shoes this summer. It’s important in these individual sports to continue to get young people engaged and involved.

Pickle ball is another sport that brings to mind retired folks and gray hair. But this year’s pickle ball event, the only one held outside of Iron County in the Miller Summer Games, is gaining popularity with the young and old alike.

Pickle ball, played at the Little Valley Pickle Ball Complex in St. George, has grown as a sport around the world and as an event at the Games.

“It’s the fastest growing participation sport in North America,” McClellan said. “Someday, we hope to have enough courts in Cedar City to host it here, but we are grateful to the City of St. George for letting us have the event at Little Valley. That’s a spectacular venue.”

The Miller Summer Games officially began this week and run through Jun. 17. Here’s a master schedule, and see the Larry H. Miller Utah Summer Games website for more sport details.

The Games’ opening ceremonies are next Thursday (Jun. 8) at 8:30 p.m. at SUU’s Eccles Coliseum.

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Twitter: @oldschoolag

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2017, all rights reserved.

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