After a five-year absence, Special Olympics Missouri State Summer Games will return to Columbia in June 2020.
Susan Stegeman, Special Olympics Missouri CEO, told a gathering Monday at City Hall that the event also will be in Columbia in 2021, 2022 and 2023. The city competed with bids from Springfield and Joplin.
"(Columbia) had a very robust bid," said Trish Lutz, Special Olympics Missouri's vice president of programs. "They wanted Special Olympics to return."
Columbia is able to generate public awareness to help recruit the 800 volunteers that will be needed, Stegeman said. The city also had a lot of public support, she said.
"It just shows the commitment to the athletes," Stegeman said.
The summer games was last in Columbia from 2012 to 2014. In recent years it has been held in Springfield. The games are expected to attract more than 1,700 athletes and coaches June 5 to 7. The games will include volleyball, track and field, swimming, soccer and power-lifting competitions.
"Columbia, Missouri, has always been the destination for premiere athletes," Mayor Brian Treece said. "This event is a perfect fit for our city — a city of inclusivity and accessibility."
Sporting events in Columbia last year had a $10 million economic impact, Treece said.
Columbia Convention and Visitors Bureau submitted the city's bid, but Director Amy Schneider said it was put together with partnerships from city government, the University of Missouri, Boone County, Columbia Public Schools, hotels and others. Without that support, the bid would not have been successful, she added.
Brian Neuner, chief development and marketing officer for Special Olympics Missouri, will be responsible for seeking sponsorships to help pay for the $200,000 cost. He thanked Columbia Police Chief Geoff Jones for re-establishing a relationship with the Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics that had lapsed.
Neuner, former chairman of the Boone Hospital Center Board of Trustees, said when the Special Olympics training center in Jefferson City was damaged in the May 22 tornado, Special Olympics received offers of help from Columbia and Boone County government.
"There's no greater feeling than when you have friends who reach out and support you," Neuner said.
Beth Brokamp, a member of the Special Olympics Missouri Hall of Fame, wore her gold medal she earned in bocce to the City Hall gathering. She's familiar with the courts and fields in Columbia and is happy the event will return here, she said.
"Columbia is a home for everybody," Brokamp said.