NEW PORT RICHEY — Pasco County has long been known as a premier location for seniors easing into the next phase of life and, more recently, as a destination for a wide range of sports activities.
This week Pasco’s Destination Management Association announced that those two distinctions are coming togethe after the county was selected to hold the next three years of the Florida Senior Games, an annual Olympic-style sports festival for athletes age 50 and older.
In addition, the Florida Sports Foundation, the state’s promotion and development arm, announced that two new competitive events that are growing in popularity will be added to the games at the suggestion of Pasco’s tourism team — Padel and FootGolf. Padel is a racquet sport played in doubles that combines elements of tennis, squash and badminton. FootGolf is played on golf course with a soccer ball and soccer-ball-sized holes.
The 2022 games will run from December 3-11 and will feature 22 sports. The games are a qualifier for the 2023 National Senior Games, which will be held in Pittsburgh. The Florida games expect approximately 2,000 senior athletes in sports ranging from basketball and powerlifting to archery and cycling.
“This event will have a positive country-wide impact considering that multiple areas will have the privilege of hosting events. Wesley Chapel, Zephyrhills, Land O Lakes, Trinity, Dade City, and potentially Port Richey will be home to the games for the next three years,” according to a memo about the announcement to the Pasco County Tourist Development Council.
Work has been ongoing for a couple of years to bring the Florida Senior Games to Pasco, said Consuela Sanchez, Pasco’s sports development and tourism manager in an email to the Tampa Bay Times. Pasco was already known to the organizers.
“In the past, we had hosted some Sunshine State Games Championships and during the pandemic in 2020, we were one of the host communities for Florida Senior Games Championships when the event had to be relocated from Broward County to other locations due to local restrictions,” Sanchez said.
She said Pasco has many features attractive to the event organizers, including large venues such as the Wiregrass Ranch Sports Campus and the Sarah Vande Berg Tennis and Wellness Center, which can host numerous events.
“Our central location is a plus considering that it is an easy drive for athletes coming from all parts of the state and even for those who are coming from out of the state,” Sanchez said.
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Sanchez said that it was good that the organizers accepted the suggestion of adding the two new sports because it showed that they trusted Pasco’s judgment. She sees that as having positive implications in the future.
“This is also a great opportunity for us to showcase our non-conventional sports venues, and that we support and believe that these two sports will rapidly grow in the U.S. It also opens an opportunity to attract to our destination new audiences, as these sports are very popular in Latin America and Europe,” she said.
“We are expecting that some international participants will attend the Florida Senior Games.”