- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Fresh off the success of the Frozen Four, the Greater Washington Sports Alliance believes it has enough momentum to attract other major events that routinely draw thousands of athletes and spectators.

The D.C. region is on the short list to land the 2014 Gay Games, the top sports festival for gay athletes, and the 2015 World Police and Fire Games, an international Olympic-style competition for police officers and firefighters.

The U.S. Military Academy and U.S. Naval Academy also are considering a bid to host the Army-Navy football game at FedEx Field at least once between 2010 and 2014.

In all cases, the Greater Washington Sports Alliance (GWSA), a nonprofit marketing group, played a leading role in the bidding effort along with other local groups.

The GWSA will learn the future of the Army-Navy game later this month, and the World Police and Fire Games and the Gay Games - to be dubbed the “Freedom Games” in Washington - will be awarded this summer.

GWSA president Bob Sweeney said positive feedback from the Frozen Four - an event praised by the NCAA for its organization and amenities - should help when the group presents its case to other event organizers.

One NCAA official said there is a “sincere hope” that Washington bids to host the Frozen Four again in 2013 or 2014. Bids for those years are due this fall.

“It went tremendously well,” said Steven Cady, the senior athletic director at Miami (Ohio) and chairman of the NCAA Division I Ice Hockey Committee. “I truly believe it’s the best site we’ve ever been to. It’s not a traditional college hockey site like a Minneapolis or Boston might be, but it was just a phenomenal event, and the folks there deserve a lot of credit. That’s why the committee hopes they’ll re-bid this fall.”

The Gay Games and Police and Fire Games would be new to the District, and the Army-Navy game has never been held inside the Beltway.

The Army-Navy game routinely sells out in Philadelphia, its traditional host city, but also drew sellouts in Baltimore in 2007 and East Rutherford, N.J., in 2002. FedEx Field likely would draw the largest crowd for the game since before 1980, when it was held annually in Philadelphia’s 102,000-seat John F. Kennedy Stadium.

The Gay Games, which will be held next year in Cologne, Germany, typically attracts more than 10,000 athletes. Boston and Cleveland also are bidding for the 2014 Games. The GWSA is working with Team D.C., an organization of gay sports teams in Washington, to formulate the bid. Sweeney said he believes the bid has been helped by the city’s recent decision to recognize marriages of gay couples from other states.

“We think we’ve put together a very strong and compelling bid for that,” Sweeney said. “It’s not chump change. It’s big time. It’s 60 sports, everything from traditional Olympic-style events to ballroom dancing. It’s pretty neat.”

The GWSA bid for the World Police and Fire Games is in conjunction with Fairfax County, which would host most of the events. The games draw 8,000 to 11,000 athletes, many of whom stay in host cities for vacation after the events end, said Duke Nyhus, executive director of the competition. Fairfax County is competing against two Canadian cities - Winnipeg, Manitoba, and Toronto - for the event.

“I’ve got to say that the quality of this bid should be excellent,” Nyhus said. “That’s not to say it’s an assurance, as they do have competition. But from what I’ve seen they have as good a chance of anybody.”

The GWSA has 10 full-time employees and eight interns and an annual operating budget of about $3.5 million. Most of its funding comes from the business community and event sponsors. Once an arm of the Greater Washington Board of Trade, it now operates as its own 501c(3).

Until recently, the GWSA was best known for organizing and promoting annual - and quickly growing - sporting events like the National Marathon and the Capitol Hill Classic high school girls’ volleyball tournament.

But the group has become more aggressive in its efforts to lure larger, one-time events. The group is expected to bid for World Cup soccer games if the United States is awarded the tournament in 2018 or 2022, and the D.C. area also could host part of the Olympic soccer tournament if Chicago is awarded the 2016 Summer Games. Sweeney said the group will bid next year to host the early rounds of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament.

“I think we’re a bigger team now, we’re more public and we can expand our wings a bit more,” Sweeney said.

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