When the Florida Senior Games come to Pasco County in December, spectators at the games will be able to watch athletes age 50 and older competing intensely to demonstrate their skills.
But after the athletes are done competing, chances are people who live and work in the county will notice a stream of visitors who are out and about enjoying what Pasco has to offer, said Nick Gandy, a media consultant for the Florida Sports Foundation.
The Florida Sports Foundation has selected Florida Sports Coast — the county’s tourism arm — to host the games at venues throughout Pasco County during the first two weeks of December in 2022, 2023 and 2024.
Gandy briefed the Pasco County Commission about the upcoming games during the board’s Sept. 6 meeting.
Adam Thomas, director of tourism for Florida Sports Coast, told board members: “We are excited to have not just one, not just two, but three annual Florida Senior Games here in Pasco County.”
Thomas also credited Consuelo Sanchez, the sports development and tourism manager on his team, for helping to make it happen.
This year’s games are scheduled for Dec. 3 through Dec. 11, with a roster of 22 sports.
Athletes will be competing in such sports as basketball, volleyball, table tennis, bowling, powerlifting, racquetball, track and field, tennis, archery, cycling, padel and Footgolf.
Pasco is the ninth community in Florida to host the games for more than one year, since the games began in 1991.
Since the games’ inception, more than 50,000 athletes have competed, including three who were 100 years old, Gandy said.
The competitions will be held at area venues across Pasco County, including the Wiregrass Ranch Sports Campus and Saddlebrook Resort, in Wesley Chapel, the Sarah Vande Berg Tennis & Wellness Center, in Zephyrhills, and Fox Hollow Golf Club, in Trinity.
Gandy said the timing of the Florida Senior Games likely will prompt a greater number of competitors because the games are the final qualifier for athletes hoping to compete in the 2023 National Senior Games, to be held in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
But even without that consideration, the competition enjoys widespread appeal, Gandy said.
“We’ve had athletes from over 40 states come to compete in the Florida Senior Games.
“Cities from Alachua to Zephyrhills are represented in the Florida Senior Games. I’ve counted over 200 cities, where athletes have come, for the Florida Senior Games. We’ve even had athletes come from the Caribbean Islands; there’s track teams from Barbados and Jamaica that come,” he said.
Plus, the games are more than just a place to compete, Gandy said.
“The Florida Senior Games is also about fellowship among the athletes.
“Once these athletes are done competing … they come to spend time together. They’ll be hanging out together in the hotel, catching up with one another, going out for dinner, taking in a lot of the amenities that the county has to offer. So, the fellowship part and the camaraderie of the Florida Senior Games is going to spread, over the next three years,” Gandy said.
He also noted many of the 65-and-up athletes have worked their careers and raised their families.
“And, this is now what they do. They compete in athletic competitions in the Florida Senior Games,” Gandy said.
In fact, during the 30th anniversary games, nine athletes received lifetime achievement awards.
They received that distinction because each had competed in at least one senior games in the 1990s, 2000s, 2010s and 2020s.
“Now, that’s a commitment,” Gandy said.
Registration for the Florida Senior Games is now open until Nov. 15. For more information, visit FloridaSeniorGames.com, or check out the Florida Senior Games Facebook page.
Published September 14, 2022