Senior Olympic Games Boost Woodbridge & Regional Economy
Get Set... Go"
By John E. McCormac
Mayor, Woodbridge Township
Since 2007, Woodbridge Township has hosted the annual New Jersey Senior Olympic Games. The event brings New Jersey Senior Olympians, athletes, volunteers, spectators and ‘Olympic” families to the “Cross Roads of New Jersey” each September.
As a result of our partnership with the New Jersey Senior Olympic Committee, I am proud to report that the New Jersey Senior Olympic Games have found a permanent home in Woodbridge. The New Jersey Senior Olympics provides not only a competitive sporting and athletic venue for senior
participants and spectators, but also an economic springboard for our ever-expanding, diverse hospitality industry and our many and varied retail/commercial outlets.
It goes without saying that Woodbridge Township, Middlesex County, and the State of New Jersey are home to a significant and growing senior population which is becoming ever more involved in an active and physically fit lifestyle. The New Jersey Senior Olympics celebrates today’s senior athletes by featuring sporting events geared to senior-level competition. And, even before competition gets underway each fall, every senior athlete is a winner just by staying in shape and participating in a routine physical fitness regimen.
Local and State Wellness Campaigns Woodbridge’s commitment to the “Mayor’s Wellness Campaign,” sponsored by the New Jersey League of Municipalities (NJLM) and The New Jersey Health Care Quality Institute, has been a significant factor in the success of the Senior Olympics and continues as a major encouragement as we promote healthy lifestyles and wellness initiatives.
Michael Garamella, Executive Director, New Jersey Senior Olympic Committee, reports that the 2009 Senior Olympic games featured 16 sporting events and competitions where senior athletes 50 years of age and older—male and female—competed for the Gold, Silver and Bronze in various age categories. These categories include 50-54; 55-59; 60-64; 65-69; 70-74; 75-79; 80-84; 85-89; and 90+. The Senior Olympic games include sporting competition in Archery, Basketball (foul shooting/accuracy and ‘3 on 3’), Billiards, Bocce, Bowling, Cycling, Darts, Fencing, Golf, Horseshoes, Racquetball, Team Softball, Swimming, Table Tennis, Tennis and Track & Field events.
While the regional television outlets have only offered spot coverage of the Senior games, Woodbridge Township cable television (WTTV-35) covers the games from opening ceremonies (pictured) to the presentation of the Gold, Silver and Bronze medals.
A National Senior Olympic Bid The New Jersey Senior Olympics is part of the National Senior Games Association (NSGA) which sponsors alternate year national Senior Olympic games at venues across the country. As a matter of fact, a delegation from the New Jersey Senior Olympic Committee and the Woodbridge Senior Games Committee attended the NSGA national games in San Francisco last year to explore the bid process as a prelude to possibly bidding to host the 2015/2017 National Senior Olympic games in New Jersey. We are weighing the pros and cons of serving as host for National Senior Games—the single-largest multi-sport event in the world for 50+ athletes—and will report on our decision to enter the national senior Olympic game sweepstakes.
The New Jersey Senior Olympic Committee selected Woodbridge Township as the site of the statewide games for many reasons, most notably our easy access to New Jersey’s major transportation networks—the New Jersey Turnpike, Garden State Parkway, I-287, and Routes 440, 1 and 9 and 35. The Woodbridge Metro Park Station is the single-largest stop on the Amtrak—New Jersey Transit commuter rail line, while downtown Woodbridge and Avenel serve as additional stops on the NJ Transit line.
Woodbridge Township Councilman Gregg Ficarra, Chairman of the Mayor’s Wellness Campaign and member of the Woodbridge Senior Games Committee, notes that Woodbridge offers senior athletes a true, world-class competition venue with sport and athletic facilities that include the YMCA at the Woodbridge Community Center, The Club at Woodbridge, the newly upgraded Woodbridge High School running track and event fields, well-appointed county and municipal parks, and excellent private venue facilities, such as the Woodbridge Bowling Center and nearby golf courses—all of which make Woodbridge Township the ideal location for the senior games. The YMCA at the Community Center and The Club at Woodbridge together provide a combination of multi-purpose recreational and sporting facilities, including two full-size gymnasiums, an Olympic-size swimming pool, roller skating rink, NHL-size ice skating and hockey rink, a wellness center, walking track, meeting rooms, and recreational and lounge areas.
Benefits to the Host Community Sponsorship and commitment to the New Jersey Senior Olympics has resulted in myriad benefits to Woodbridge Township, Middlesex County, and the surrounding region. Last year the New Jersey Senior Olympic games attracted nearly 1,000 Senior Olympians, athletes, families, friends, and non-participating seniors. The economic Impact for 2010—with an estimated 1,200-1,500 senior athletes and guests (2010 is a national competition year where New Jersey medalists are eligible to compete in the Summer National Senior Games)—is expected to generate and infuse tens of thousands of dollars into the Woodbridge business and hospitality community.
The 2009 New Jersey Senior Olympic games featured 16 sporting events and competitions where senior athletes 50 years of age and older—male and female—competed for the Gold, Silver and Bronze in various age categories
The New Jersey Senior Olympic games offer positive media exposure to Woodbridge Township and to our senior athletes. The New Jersey, New York and Philadelphia media markets recognize that news and sport coverage of senior events offers expanded marketing for senior-related advertising, as seniors tend to rely on standard media outlets for their news and sport information.
While the regional television outlets have only offered spot coverage of the Senior games, Woodbridge Township cable television (WTTV-35) covers the games from opening ceremonies to the presentation of the Gold, Silver and Bronze medals. TV-35 then programs the senior competition for air on our cable network. We also offer a coverage “round-up” and marketing DVD of the Woodbridge Senior Olympics via the Woodbridge Township web page at www.twp.woodbridge.nj.us
It goes without saying that those who attend the Woodbridge Senior Olympic Games are interested in the social and vacation aspects of the experience, as well as the athletic competition. Senior athletes and their families and friends are likely to take tours of Woodbridge Township to explore our rich history and partake of local entertainment opportunities. The region benefits as participants and spectators take side excursions to the Jersey Shore, Atlantic City, and even Philadelphia and New York City.
Woodbridge, as the host community, also gains valuable experience and credibility for hosting similar events in the future. And, it’s important to note that events like the New Jersey Senior Olympic Games provide the Township Administration with yet another valuable resource—our municipal staff from administrative employees, to the Recreation Department, to Public Works, to police, emergency management and fire services, all gain valuable knowledge in planning for and executing large public-venue events. We also have developed a very significant volunteer base with identified key persons who have the knowledge necessary to produce other successful events in the community. In fact, hundreds of volunteers, ranging from teenagers to senior adults, are involved in hosting the New Jersey Senior Olympic Games in Woodbridge Township. Our volunteers and township community-at-large are exposed to achievement-oriented, active and enthusiastic adults who present an image which everyone can admire.
Opening Ceremonies 2009 The “Opening Ceremonies” for the 2009 Senior Olympic games took place on Saturday, September 12 outside the Woodbridge Community Center. The ceremonies introduced our most “senior” New Jersey Senior Olympians, including Emma “Warhorse” Hendrickson, a 100-year-old bowler from Morris Plains; Claire Butler, a 93-year-old archer from Mountainside, and Russell Lisi, a 92-year-old billiards player from Woodbridge. In 2009, we introduced a local incentive—we sponsored all Woodbridge Township Senior athletes with a $20 contribution to the $25 general registration entry fee—the funds came to us via corporate sponsorship of the Senior Olympic Registration and Information book. As a result, nearly 150 Woodbridge Township Senior athletes signed-up for the games—a record number of athletes from any community in the state.
A Call to Action You may recall seeing our challenge to NJLM mayors in the NJLM summer newsletter. I’m pleased to report that several towns, including Piscataway and Manchester Township, took up the challenge and sponsored senior athletes from their community to attend and participate in the games.
While the 2009 games were tremendously successful, I’m convinced that the 2010 Senior Olympic Games in Woodbridge Township will be even more exciting, successful and well-attended. That’s why we’re reporting on the status and success of the games to the readership of the NJLM magazine. This year, let’s start early and set a record attendance for the upcoming games. I’m once again challenging NJLM mayors and communities to encourage and sponsor senior athletes. With your support and encouragement, I’m confident that senior athletes—as well as non-athletes—from your town will make a strong showing at the 2010 New Jersey Senior Olympic games.
So let’s get the word out: New Jersey Senior athletes are needed to compete in the 2010 Senior Olympic Games. For more information about the 2010 New Jersey Senior Olympics, go to www.twp.woodbridge.nj.us.
This article appeared in New Jersey Municipalities, Volume 87, Number 2, February 2010