October 20, 2021

Senior Games are wait-and-see for now

The Empire State Senior Games will return this year, organizers said. They don’t know exactly which events, or where they’ll be, but return they shall.

Expect to see golf, and croquet. Maybe pickleball. However, basketball and volleyball are probably out, because of expected COVID-19 restrictions.

“We can’t do anything until we know we can run the event,” said Machell Phelps, executive director of the Cortland Regional Sports Council, which runs the games.

A year after the games were canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic, Phelps said she’s working to have as many events as possible this year.

Golf will be at Vesper Hills Golf Club in Tully; croquet will be in Rochester, she said. Events like pickleball won’t feature new registration and instead be the registrants who signed up for last year’s games.

Phelps said she is waiting to hear from SUNY Cortland about the availability of the college’s outdoor tennis courts for pickleball.

Events such as basketball and volleyball will probably be canceled due to COVID restrictions.

Different this year, too, will be the length of the event.

In games before the pandemic, the events would last between seven to 10 days during the second or third week of June, Phelps said. This year, the events will likely be held over the summer months based on venue availability.

“It’s definitely going to be different,” she said.

In years past, between 1,100 and 1,400 attendees would participate in the games.

The cancellation of the games last year left a big economic hole for businesses, said Meghan Lawton, the executive director of the Cortland County Convention and Visitors Bureau.

“The cancellation of almost all of our yearly events, including the Empire Senior Games, was devastating to all aspects of our tourism industry, from hotels to restaurants to local stores and beyond,” Lawton said. “Every single event that did not happen was missed. We are very much looking forward to as many of those events as possible, including the Senior Games, returning this year as all will supply a boost to the economic vitality of the area.”

The games brought about $358,000 in economic activity in 2018.

Phelps said she hopes to hear back in the next few weeks from more venues about using spaces to host events.

“It’s really kind of a wait and see process at the moment,” she said. “The most important thing is for people to be able do something if they want to compete.”