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It’s a big dill: Pickleballers, other athletes headed to ABQ for Senior Games

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The pickleballers are on their way, Albuquerque.

More than 6,000 athletes have already registered for the National Senior Games scheduled for June 14-25 in Albuquerque, officials told the City Council last week. With the entry deadline still about two months away, City Senior Affairs Director Anna Sanchez told the Council many more are expected.

“I think we’re going to well exceed the 10,000 (goal),” she said.

And that’s just competitors – the two-week event is expected to bring about 15,000 family members and friends to town, she said.

Tania Armenta, president and CEO of Visit Albuquerque, said she was “conservatively” estimating the event would sell about 20,000 hotel rooms around the city.

Pickleball – a paddle sport played with something akin to a wiffle ball – is among the most popular sports for entrants, but the lineup also includes cycling, swimming, track, basketball, softball, archery and even shuffleboard.

Officials said 10 working committees are helping the city prepare and that every city department has somehow chipped in.

But more help is needed: running the games will take about 3,000 volunteers, Sanchez said.

“We will take anybody – from the young toddler cheering on folks finishing the cycling to also those who can help us pass out fruit and refreshments to the athletes maybe going down the trail,” she said.

Volunteers and spectators may spot a familiar face or two during the competitions: Councilor Ken Sanchez noted that fellow Councilor Brad Winter would be competing.

He set the bar pretty high for Winter – a pole vault silver medalist during the 2017 Senior Games – saying “we will have … a national champion after the games.”

“Thank you, councilor,” Winter responded. “I just hope my body holds up until then.”

To find out about volunteer opportunities, call 764-6400.

NEW (PUBLIC) FACES: Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller has a new communications team. Matt Ross is the second-year mayor’s new communications director.

Ross, who previously held the same job with the City of Santa Fe, replaces Alicia Manzano, who took a position in the city’s Cultural Services Department.

Jessie Damazyn is Keller’s new public information officer. She was an Albuquerque-based press secretary for Michelle Lujan Grisham when the now-governor was in Congress.

Jessica Dyer: