A 21-year partnership between the state’s Special Olympics and the Wenatchee Valley will likely end this month when the games begin the search for a new host city.
A bid proposal to host the 2012 Special Olympics Winter Games will be issued statewide by April 30 as the nonprofit sports organization looks for less expensive venues following an announcement by Mission Ridge Ski & Board Resort that it could no longer offer its facilities for free or at huge discounts.
The annual three-day Winter Games attracts more than 1,500 athletes and thousands more volunteers, family members and spectators. A new site is expected to be named by mid-June.
Local tourism, business and sports officials — stunned by the announcement — said the loss of the games would eliminate the area’s top inspirational and “feel good” event while stripping the local economy of up to $1 million in sorely needed tourism dollars.
Held every March, the Special Olympics has been the area’s largest single event for more than a decade before dropping to second-place behind a regional baseball tournament. The Triple Crown Wenatchee Season Opener tournament, a 109-team competition, will be this weekend in Wenatchee.
Still, the Special Olympics draws upward of 5,000 athletes and visitors to fill most hotel rooms in Chelan County and pack local restaurants for three days straight. Crowds attend events at two local ski facilities, Town Toyota Center and half a dozen school basketball courts.
Reasons for the pullout? Officials for the games and local venues said Tuesday it all comes down to money — the soaring costs of putting on the huge event and tightening budgets due to the economic downturn.