Landing these games will involve some serious business.
City commissioners were told at their Tuesday evening meeting that if Lawrence is chosen as the site for the 2014 Special Olympics National Games there will be about $7 million to $8 million in expenses to host the event.
Commissioners, though, enthusiastically said they were ready to support a bid for the event that could draw tens of thousands of people to town.
“I think what you can pretty much guarantee is that we’re all excited,” Mayor Mike Amyx said. “You’re going to see a partnership amongst everybody to ensure that this is the biggest success that anybody in Special Olympics has seen.”
Any success will involve a massive fundraising effort. Chris Hahn, president and CEO of Special Olympics Kansas, said a separate non-profit corporation will be formed to host the games. That group would be responsible for raising the money needed to host the eight-day event that would be in mid-July 2014.
Hahn said the estimated $7 million to $8 million in expenses would be sought largely from private donors.
“We know where to look for the money,” Hahn said. “This is going to be a big deal for the whole state.”
But Lawrence would stand to gain the most from the event. Leaders estimate the event would attract 3,000 athletes, 1,000 coaches and officials, 15,000 family members of athletes, 8,500 volunteers, and about 35,000 other spectators.
Based on figures from when Ames, Iowa, hosted the event in 2006 and Lincoln, Neb., hosted it earlier this year, it is estimated the games would pump about $40 million into the Lawrence economy.
“The hotels are going to be cram packed, and shops and restaurants will be full,” Hahn said. “It is like a KU football game, but for eight or nine days straight.”
At their meeting Tuesday, commissioners agreed to send a letter in support of the bid. The bid is due in October. Hahn has been working with the Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Chamber of Commerce and Kansas University, which would provide venues for many of the events, to submit the bid. Hahn said he anticipates the Special Olympics committee will make a site selection by the end of the year.
Hahn expects that three to four other cities will submit bids for the games.