Apr. 15—There will be more winners crowned in the City of Champions.
Pittsburgh was selected for the 2023 National Senior Games, announced Wednesday at the Senator John Heinz History Center in the Strip District.
The event will be held in the summer of 2023.
This is the second time the city will host the competition for athletes 50 years old and over. The most recent was in 2005.
SportsPittsburgh, a division of VisitPittsburgh, and P3R, the management partner of SportsPittsburgh that produces races, will co-host the event.
"Pittsburgh is definitely a destination for national events," said Jennifer Hawkins, executive director for SportsPittsburgh. "It has been recognized as the most livable city, and the athletes will be competing in the City of Champions."
Hawkins said she feels like she knows every possible athletic venue in the city, having visited all of them while researching for where the sports competitions will take place.
The games feature 10,000 athletes participating in more than 20 sports over two weeks. Among them are archery, badminton, basketball, bowling, cycling, golf, softball, track and field, and volleyball. Athletes are organized in five-year age divisions with medals awarded for each level.
The event, held every two years, is expected to draw more than 30,000 visitors. Hawkins said it could generate $35 million in economic impact.
This year's event was moved to 2022 in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., because of the pandemic.
According to the National Senior Games Association, it is the largest Olympic-style multi-sport event in the world for seniors.
Marc T. Riker, CEO of the association, commended Pittsburgh on its team. He said there are certain requirements for sports venues, hotels, transportation, dining and other amenities. He was able to "check off all those boxes in Pittsburgh."
Pittsburgh will be the first city to host twice that wasn't an association headquarters, he said.
"Everyone in Pittsburgh works so well together," Riker said. "There is a legacy for this city to be a leader in everything it does. The finish line will be when we are in Pittsburgh. To get to that finish line, it takes a lot of blood, sweat and tears. The work behind the scenes is so important, and Pittsburgh is dedicated to putting on a successful event."
Not only will the National Senior Games feature the best senior athletes in the country, but it also will be a reminder of the importance of health and wellness for aging adults, Hawkins said.
"While 2023 may seem a long time off, there is a lot of work to do from an operations standpoint to ensure that the athlete and fan experience is what is expected for our city," said Troy Schooley, CEO of P3R.
Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald said he sees the event as a way to boost the city, especially for the hospitality industry, which has suffered during the pandemic.
"We love that so many people will be coming to our city," Fitzgerald said.
Mayor Bill Peduto said athletes who may never have been here will get to experience what the city has to offer. He said this is the start of big things coming back, from movies to be filmed here to other events and happenings in the future.
This event will be a celebration of "our intergenerational city," Peduto said.
"We haven't been able to give out medals because our events have been canceled because of the pandemic," said Schooley to the athletes in attendance. "All of you are an inspiration to us. It is so important to keep moving — at every stage of life."
Riker said athletes who competed in 2005 said the city was friendly and accommodating.
The Keystone State Games hosts the annual Pennsylvania Senior Games, which serve as the state's qualifying event for the national games. Qualifying will take place in 2022 in Luzerne County.
"We're proud that Pittsburgh has been selected again, and excited to help spread the word," Keystone State Games Executive Director James Costello said in a statement. "There's always a surge in new people coming to qualify in the state where nationals are hosted because of the close proximity."
Carol McCollough, 77, of Butler founded the Western Pennsylvania Senior Olympics group. She plays basketball, volleyball and softball.
"We refer to ourselves 'Off Our Rockers,' " she said. "It helps to stay active to stay healthy, but it's hard on the joints."
John Eckenrode, 94, of Cecil has competed in the past seven games. He is a cyclist and runs the 50- and 100-meter dash events. This will be the first time he will be competing without his wife Margaret, who died last year. He said he feels local athletes have the advantage because they are used to hills.
"The fact it is close to home, maybe more local athletes will try and qualify," said Eckenrode, who bikes almost daily. "Staying in shape helps you keep your balance. You have to keep your legs moving."
JoAnne Klimovich Harrop is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact JoAnne at 724-853-5062, email@example.com or via Twitter .