Coming to the Twin Cities in 2015: The Summer National Senior Games. The multi-sport event, for athletes 50 and older, is expected to attract 35,000 people.
Chuck Supplee, 91, returned a ball while playing tennis with his doubles partner, Ray Ranallo, 88, at Bryant Park in Bloomington Tuesday. Supplee and Ranallo won a gold medal in their age group playing doubles in the 2009 Summer National Senior Games.
The largest multi-sport event in the world for people age 50 and older is coming to the Twin Cities in 2015, and promoters say the Summer National Senior Games will draw 35,000 people and generate $40 million for the local economy.
Organizers call it the largest gathering confirmed in the metro area in the next five years.
Mayors in Minneapolis, St. Paul and Bloomington saluted the games at a Tuesday news conference at TCF Bank Stadium at the University of Minnesota. The games, which feature 18 sports, will be played in a two-week run in July at venues in those cities. More than 13,500 participants, supporters and others are expected to fill hotel rooms in the area.
"We are happy to bring a win back into TCF stadium," Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak said as the audience laughed.
The Twin Cities has never hosted the Senior Games, which began in 1987 and are held every two years. Organizers said the event will not only give the Twin Cities economy a boost but convey an important message: Exercise aids healthy aging, and athletic accomplishment isn't limited to the young.
Chuck Supplee of Bloomington can vouch for that. He clapped and cheered during the news conference, wearing athletic gear, a sweatband around one wrist and a Senior Games medal around his neck.
Supplee, 91, had played tennis before the news conference. He has competed in eight Senior Games. He said his daughter made a case for all his trophies.
"I'm just an ordinary player; I lose more times than I win," he said. "But getting involved in any sport, even just participating, is important."
Supplee and his tennis doubles partner, 88-year-old Ray Ranallo of Minneapolis, both began playing tennis seriously when they were in their 60s. Ranallo has played in three Senior Games.
"It's just wonderful, unbelievable" that the games are coming to Minnesota, Ranallo said. He plays two to three times a week and helps with a program that introduces the sport to inner-city children.
Playing is "fun, it gives you purpose, and it keeps you in shape," he said.
Susan Adams Loyd, co-chair of the local organizing committee, said she was a figure skater when she was girl, but sports opportunities for women were few when she was in school. Now 52, she competed in the 2009 Senior Games in San Francisco and finished fifth in her age group in the 100-meter dash.
"It's not so much the competition with other athletes, but competition with yourself," she said. She called the games "a celebration of a healthy lifestyle."
The games run for 16 days. Athletes must qualify for the national meet at competitions held the year before. Athletes compete in age brackets in archery, badminton, basketball, bowling, cycling, golf, horseshoes, race walk, racquetball, road race, shuffleboard, softball, swimming, table tennis, tennis, track and field, triathlon and volleyball.
Ranallo said he'd like to compete in 2015.
"It would be nice," he said. "I'll take it as it comes; I feel fortunate to get this far."
Mary Jane Smetanka • 612-673-7380