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City of McAllen has higher hopes for 2017 Games of Texas

July 27, 2017 GMT

Five years ago, the Texas Amateur Athletic Federation (TAAF) selected McAllen to host its Summer Games of Texas in 2016 and 2017. McAllen surprisingly got the nod over Waco, a city with nearly double McAllen’s square mileage (88.96 vs. 48.34, according to census data) and Houston, a city on the fast track to becoming the nation’s third largest metropolitan area.

In retrospect, the 2016 TAAF Summer Games of Texas could be looked at as a dry run for McAllen. The city sees the 2017 edition as a more finely-tuned Games experience for organizers and competitors.

“I think last year’s experience was extremely helpful to (McAllen) Parks and Recreation,” Games coordinator Joe Brown said. “As far as having checklists for items, dates to have certain things in place and venues or sites that might be better or worked well, I think we’re much more solid. In fact, I know we’re much more solid.”

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The 2017 TAAF Summer Games of Texas will get going with three of the Games’ 15 events commencing today. Golf begins at Palm View Golf Course and McAllen Country Club, swimming at Edinburg Water Park, and track and field at McAllen Veterans Memorial Stadium.

Like last year, events will be scattered throughout the Valley such as pickleball (Friday through Saturday at Sharyland High School in Mission), table tennis (Saturday through Sunday at the Harlingen Community Center) and skateboarding (Saturday at the Brownsville Sports Park).

The Games’ opening ceremony will take place Friday evening at the McAllen Convention Center.

Patrons will notice a few changes in this year’s Games. Competitions like the 5,000-meter run, cycling, disc golf and girls’ softball won’t return from 2016, while 7-on-7 football (Saturday at the McAllen Sports Park) and youth baseball (Saturday through Sunday at the Westside Ball Fields in McAllen) will be introduced as new events.

“We have a great interest in 7-on-7 football regionally,” city of McAllen Deputy Director of Programs Josh Stockel said. “There are a lot of schools who have been looking for more opportunities to have 7-on-7 tournaments. Same thing with youth baseball. We’re working with the Boys & Girls Club, and they’ve also had a lot of people voice to them a desire for a youth baseball event. We thought they’d be great additions to what we were already doing.”

The number of competitors in the 2016 Summer Games of Texas was a slight decline (7,316) from the 2015 Games held in College Station (7,750). The city of McAllen anticipates upward of 8,000 athletes coming down to the Valley this weekend. Brown and the city are banking on familiarity as a big reason why.

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“In my experience working other athletic events, having it at an extreme end of Texas is more of a challenge to travel for some people,” Brown said. “So if you’re in the Rio Grande Valley, El Paso, Beaumont-Orange or up in Lubbock, it’s a longer trip for some reason. I’ve been involved when the city had hosted national tournaments, and it seems people traveled better for those.

“There was also some concern last year about border violence, even though that was on the Mexican side and not on our side. In visiting with a number of people last year, they were extremely impressed with McAllen. The people at the hotels here have told me they have a lot of rooms booked for this weekend. It’s looking positive.”

Other sports returning to the 2017 Games include archery (Saturday at the Kappler Property in McAllen), basketball (Friday through Sunday at the Edinburg Sports and Wellness Center), boxing (Friday through Sunday at the McAllen Convention Center), soccer (Saturday through Sunday at McAllen Sports Park), tennis (Friday through Sunday at the McAllen Country Club and McHi Tennis Complex), volleyball (Saturday through Sunday at the McAllen Boys & Girls Club and McAllen Memorial High School) and wrestling (Friday through Saturday at the McAllen Convention Center).

With the Games nearing, Brown says now isn’t too late to sign up as a volunteer for any events. Those interested in helping out are required to fill out an application before Sunday, the final day of the Games.

“One of the issues we had to deal with were volunteers at the track and field event, which is the biggest event and venue,” Brown said. “That was something we wanted to go somewhat smoothly, and it did, but we could have used a little more help.”

In addition to the anticipated 8,000 athletes competing this weekend, McAllen is projecting another 12,000 spectators to make their way to the Valley, as well.

nkotisso@themonitor.com