ST. GEORGE — Growing every year in popularity, the 2019 Huntsman World Senior Games beat some significant records this year.
Along with a record number of athletes and sporting events, this year’s games also brought a record-high nearly $16 million in direct economic impact to Washington County.
Kyle Case, CEO of the Huntsman World Senior Games, said he was proud of setting so many milestone moments this year.
“When we started the games in 1987, we had about 200 athletes and six sports that we offered,” Case said. “This year we had 33 different sports and 11,179 athletes. … As a point of reference, there were 11,200 athletes that competed in the last Olympics. As we’ve tracked that growth progress it’s been pretty consistent and steady. It’s been exciting to see that happen.”
Touted as an event that fosters peace, health and friendship, the games attract participants from around the globe. This year, athletes from 32 different countries attended the games, including the addition of senior athletes from the Cayman Islands. Since 1987, the Huntsman World Senior Games has hosted 81 different nations, along with participants from all 50 states.
“We always track our first-year athletes because we think this is a good indicator or growth,” Case said. “This year we had 2,503 athletes who had never been here before.”
Case credits the growth to a combination of offering a great mix of events including archery, pickleball and table tennis, wonderful venues, and good old fashion word of mouth.
“We have always felt our best marketing efforts have come through a well-organized event,” Case said. “We try really hard to put on what we call the ‘Huntsman world Senior Games experience’. We hope the athletes come and have a great time and then they go home and tell their friends about it and come back the next year with their friends and new people.”
The games tap into the population of seniors who are moving through their retirement years. It is estimated that about 10,000 people turn 65 every day across the nation, a figure that is not lost on the game’s organizers.
“So many of them are focused on health, wellness and longevity,” Case said. “Our athletes are trying to live the very best possible life that they can.”
Two new sports were added this year. Handgun shooting, which attracted 75 athletes, and trail running, which also registered 75 athletes.
“One of the things we are so excited about with trail running, in particular, is the myriad of options we will have for our athletes to use as a venue,” Case said. “There are so many combinations of trails and areas that we will be able to expand and grow this event.”
New for 2020 will be bocci ball, men’s soccer and indoor rowing.
David Cordero, communications and marketing director for the city of St. George, is also pleased with the success of the games.
“The Huntsman World Senior Games serves as an excellent spotlight for our city,” Cordero said. “In addition to showcasing St. George to the world, we also reap a substantial economic impact which lessens the tax burden on our residents.”
This year’s economic impact equals that of 2,628,950 Little Ceasars pizzas. Stacked one on top of each other, they would reach 41 miles into the sky.
Kevin Lewis, director for the Greater Zion Convention and Tourism Office, said while the region hosts many events throughout the year, which also bring in significant revenue to the county, the Huntsman World Senior Games has become one of the area’s premier events.
“If you quantify it as a single event it brings in more economic impact than just about anything else that happens in the county,” Lewis said. “It’s larger than Ironman or the marathon. It definitely has a massive impact on the region.”
Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2019, all rights reserved.