The world's largest multi-sport event for seniors is coming to Broward County. The National Senior Games announced Tuesday it had chosen Broward to hold the games in 2021.
"We are very very thrilled," National Senior Games CEO Marc T. Riker told a small crowd at the Broward County Convention Center. "We're excited that we'll be having over 10,000 athletes that will be coming down here to compete in the games."
The competition, which happens every two years, includes more than 20 sports. Any qualifying athletes over the age of 50 can play.
Over the next decade in Broward, more than 236,000 adults will age into - and past - retirement age, according to The United Way.
Pickleball, which continues to grow in popularity, will be among the sports. A mix between tennis, racquetball and ping pong, pickleball has grown at the state and national level for at least the last three years. In 2017 about 900 pickleball players competed at the National Senior Games. Now the organization has close to 1,200 registered for the sport.
"You're seeing a lot of developers putting in outdoor facilities to attract people," said pickleball medalist Tobias Kaye. "The sport has grown so much."
Kaye, 67, and his partner won gold in the sport in last December's Florida Senior Games, the state-level senior games that are a qualifying event for the national event. They will attend this year's National Senior Games in Albuquerque, held in the summer.
Riker, the National Games CEO, said everything about pickleball is growing:
"Increasing courts, and increasing the number of days we have that competition competing," he said.
Basketball player Kathy Cristian, 51, is on a local women's team, The Broward Heat. Her teammates call her 'Queen,' and she's one of the players set to represent Broward County in the National Games in Albuquerque. She hopes to be able to compete again in South Florida in two years.
"For me, there's just something you push - there's a button that I push inside of myself to say, you know, 'you can do anything,'" Cristian said.
The 2019 and 2020 Florida Senior Games will also be in Broward.
The Florida and National Senior Games, combined with three other networking events from the Panam Sports and SportAccord organizations, are expected to bring an economic impact of about $45 million to the county.
"I just love it," Cristian said. "The 'senior Olympics.'"