The Wesley Chapel area already is host to some of the largest youth sports tournaments in the Tampa Bay area and will now expand its reach to a new demographic — seniors.
The Florida Sports Foundation, the state of Florida’s sports promotion and development organization, and Florida’s Sports Coast (Pasco County’s sports tourism arm) will team up to be the primary host of Florida Senior Games for the next three years, starting in December of this year.
“It’s definitely a different demographic than what we tend to go after,” said Adam Thomas, the director of Florida’s Sports Coast. “Out of all of our sports, 95% of them are youth sports. This will be a new audience to tap into.”
The Florida Senior Games is an Olympic-style sports festival, for athletes over the age of 50 (and there is even a 100+ age group). The 31st annual Games in December will consist of 22 sports — half of which will be staged in Wesley Chapel — and will be held December 3-11. The event is a qualifier for the 2023 National Senior Games in Pittsburgh, PA.
The county has hosted various Senior Games events in the past. The Wiregrass Ranch Sports Campus of Pasco County hosted bag toss, basketball shooting, 3-on-3 basketball and volleyball in December 2020, while pickleball was played at the Sarah Vande Berg (SVB) Tennis & Wellness Center in Zephyrhills.
This year, however, will mark the county’s first time as the primary host of the entire event.
And, because of the growth of sports venues in Wesley Chapel over the past decade, many of the events will take place here.
The Wiregrass Ranch Sports Campus will host archery, basketball shooting and 3-on-3 basketball (Dec. 3), and volleyball (Dec. 10-11), while Saddlebrook Resort will host foot golf Dec. 10.
SVB will host almost every racquet sport, including padel (which will be played for the first time in the Senior Games Dec. 9-11), tennis (Dec. 3-8) and pickleball (Dec. 8-11).
Cypress Creek High and its rubber track will be home for many of the running events. Track & field is scheduled for Dec. 9-11, with a 1,500-meter power walk and 1,500-meter race walk set for Dec. 11.
Events like bowling and shuffleboard (Zephyrhills), golf (Trinity), and even power lifting (Land O’Lakes) will be held across the county.
“We’ve always been involved with the Senior Games in some form or fashion,” Thomas says, “but landing the actual games as the host destination, that will bring in close to 2,000 (hotel) rooms for a week-long event, and it will bring up to 3,000 athletes and their families here for that same time period. So we’re looking at total visitors per day of 4,000.”
Thomas says that, according to Florida’s Sports Coast’s projections, the Senior Games will have an economic impact of $1.2 million per day throughout Pasco County. And, because the event is a national qualifier, Thomas is hoping the Florida games can put Florida’s Sports Coast in line to host the national event at some point down the road.
“This opens the door for us,” Thomas says. “We’ve definitely got our eyes on that.”
For more information about the 2022 Florida Senior Games, visit FloridaSeniorGames.com or follow FloridaSeniorGames on Facebook. For more information about Florida’s Sports Coast, visit FLSportsCoast.com.