Beutler thumbs up

Lincoln Mayor Chris Beutler.

Journal Star file photo

It's official: Lincoln beat out San Diego to host the 2015 State Games of America, Mayor Chris Beutler announced at a news conference Friday afternoon.

Athletes from across the country will compete in Lincoln between July 28 and Aug. 2, 2015, in events ranging from chess to ice hockey.

As many as 18,000 participants are expected to generate at least $20 million in economic activity, although officials said Friday they believe it could be larger.

"By awarding this national event to Lincoln, the board is expressing its confidence that our community can produce a top-level experience for athletes and guests from all 50 states," Beutler said.

When volunteers and spectators are added to the number of visiting contestants, officials estimate the games could attract 47,000 people.

Lincoln is up to the challenge and is ready to go, said Beutler, who added that Omaha and other nearby cities will benefit as well.

This was the first time Nebraska officials have made a bid to host the games. It was the culmination of two years of research, which included surveying participants, volunteers and sponsors to secure support.

In February, Dave Mlnarik, executive director of the Cornhusker State Games; Scott Ash, games director; and Jeff Maul of the Lincoln Convention and Visitors Bureau presented Lincoln's case in front of the National Congress of State Games Board of Directors.

Lincoln beat out San Diego's oceans, theme parks and Sea World, Maul said.

Gov. Dave Heineman said Lincoln would show the nation there is no better place to hold an athletic event.

"We're going to have the biggest and best State Games ever," Heineman said.

If the expected 18,000 participants -- including 12,000 Nebraskans and 6,000 medalists from across the country -- show up, it will be the largest State Games of America ever.

The record of just more than 10,000 athletes was set in Colorado Springs in 2009.

The State Games of America will replace the Cornhusker State Games in 2015. All residents of Nebraska who have earned a medal in the two years leading up to the games will be eligible to participate.

The State Games of America take place every other year. This year, the Hershey-Harrisburg, Pa., region will host the event from July 31 to Aug. 4.

Since the games began in 1999, St. Louis; Hartford, Conn.; Colorado Springs; and San Diego have hosted them.

Reach Emily Nitcher at 402-473-2657 or enitcher@journalstar.com.

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