The largest amateur sporting event in Kansas will remain in Lawrence, for now.
Sunflower State Games officials announced Thursday an agreement with the Lawrence Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Lawrence Sports Corp. to keep the games in Lawrence through 2002.
The Sunflower State Games, which assembles 7,000 to 9,000 athletes from across the state to compete in various sporting events, has called Lawrence home since the games' birth in 1990.
After 2002, the games' location will be up for grabs, said Vicki Hill, Sunflower State Games executive director.
For the first time in at least six years, bids will be open to other cities hoping to snag the event, which has brought thousands of athletes and spectators to Lawrence each summer, creating a boon for hotels and other businesses.
Topeka and Wichita already have expressed interest in playing host to the event, and others are eyeing the opportunity, Hill said.
Troy Roberts, Lawrence Sports Corp. executive director, said his organization will do whatever it takes to keep the games in Lawrence.
"I believe we can keep them here," Roberts said. "I know there's competition from other towns, but I believe with our track record and our sports facilities we can keep it here."
Hill agreed Lawrence traditionally has been a welcoming host to the games. Three of its nine major sponsors are from Lawrence, and 95 percent of the games' 400 event volunteers are from Lawrence and the area. But six other major sponsors are from various Kansas towns.
When assessing future bids, the Sunflower State Games will look at the community time commitment and the business financial support of potential host cities, Hill said.
"We've had lots of success with the games here in Lawrence and we know the athletes and spectators really do like to come to Lawrence," she said. "But as a business, it's also very important to be in an area that truly embraces the games."
This summer's Sunflower State Games will be July 20-22 and July 27-29 in Lawrence.
-- Staff writer Amber Stuever can be reached at 832-7165.