The National Senior Games are coming to Albuquerque in 2019.
The two-week event is expected to attract 10,000 athletes 50 or older for competition in about 20 sports, including track and field, swimming, golf, shuffleboard and softball.
The Albuquerque Convention Center will serve as the hub — with athletes staying at hotels around Downtown — but the games will take place at fields, courts and golf courses throughout the city.
Mayor Richard Berry and his director of senior affairs, Jorja Armijo-Brasher, made the announcement Tuesday morning on Civic Plaza.
They led a recruitment team that helped persuade the National Senior Games Association to choose Albuquerque over competing cities.
“It was a pretty long road to get here,” Berry said Tuesday, but “Albuquerque won.”
He estimated the games would have an economic impact of $34 million as athletes and their families stay in local hotel rooms and shop in Albuquerque.
“That’s a great economic boost for the city,” the mayor said.
It’ll cost about $4.9 million to serve as host of the games, Berry said. The city will pay about $2.6 million, and the University of New Mexico and Bernalillo County government will contribute, too, he said. Corporate sponsorships are expected to round out the financing.
The announcement comes after Berry and city councilors earlier this year approved plans to build a $21 million complex of baseball and softball fields on the West Side, near the new Albuquerque Public Schools’ stadium. Construction is expected to be done within a year.
“The sports complex is already paying for itself even before the start of construction,” City Council President Dan Lewis said.
The city outlined a variety of other investments it said will help prepare for the games themselves and the influx of athletes and their families:
n The Convention Center will undergo about $1 million in renovations.
n Pickleball courts are under construction at the Manzano Mesa center in the far southeast part of town.
n The city plans to complete the Albuquerque Rapid Transit project in late 2017, though it doesn’t yet have final approval and it also faces a legal challenge.
“We are willing to invest in ourselves,” the mayor said. “I think this made a big difference for us.”
The games are expected to take place at a variety of locations. They include the Jerry Cline and West Side tennis courts, West Mesa aquatic center, Arroyo del Oso golf course and UNM’s Johnson Center, which will undergo about $35 million in renovations.
Tania Armenta — president and CEO of Visit Albuquerque, the city contractor charged with bringing meetings and tourists to the city — said the senior games are a step toward making Albuquerque a destination for sporting events, drawing on Albuquerque’s reputation as a fit city with great outdoor opportunities.
The National Veterans Golden Age games will be held in Albuquerque in 2018, she said.
“We’re going to be the place to be for senior sporting events the next few years,” Armenta said.
Marc Riker, CEO of the National Senior Games Association, said the natural beauty and culture of Albuquerque contributed to the decision to schedule the games in the city. But he said the team of city departments and organizations made a convincing pitch.
“It’s the people that make the difference,” he said.
Albuquerque’s turn to host the event will come after Birmingham, Ala., plays host to the 2017 senior games. The 2015 games were held in the Minneapolis area.
The event began in St. Louis in 1987. It was originally known as the National Senior Olympic Games, though the word “olympic” was later dropped because of an objection by the U.S. Olympic Committee.