The Empire State Senior Games return to Cortland

Runners participate in a 10K as part of the 2018 Empire State Senior Games, which were hosted in Cortland (Cortland Voice file photo)

This weekend will be the start of this year’s Empire State Senior Games at Cortland, with over 1,100 people participating in dozens of different events throughout the week.

Cortland has hosted the Empire State Senior Games for the past 35 years, and the Cortland Regional Sports Council has been running the event since 2011.

There are 18 different sporting events where seniors are able to participate and compete, including: volleyball, tennis, basketball, bowling, swimming, track and field, pickle-ball and many more.

“As of now, we have a little over 1,100 people registered for the games, which is about on par where we are in a non-qualifying year” said Machell Phelps, Executive Director of the Cortland Regional Sports Council. “For last year’s qualifying year we had over 1,300 athletes, so we are expecting even more next year.

Athletes are able to qualify for the national games every other year, and Cortland is the only place that hosts qualifying games in the state of New York, Phelps said.

Seniors all over the state of New York gather to come and participate in these Senior Games, but not all of the events are competitive. The Senior Games also feature social events, where seniors can play shuffleboards, cards and horseshoes.

“We do have two buses that come up from New York City that bring athletes from a couple of their senior centers and have been coming up here for years,” said Phelps. “Part of the reason why we do some of the social activities we do is to benefit them.”

The event boosts the local economy through increased hotel stays and spending at local bars and restaurants, Phelps added.

Thirty teams are registered for volleyball

The weekend will start off with volleyball this Saturday June 8, at 8:30 am. Being one of the biggest events, where there are already about 30 teams registered. Next week kicks off with tennis and pickleball, the latter of which has 450 people registered, the largest contingent of athletes for any sport.

Most of the events take place at SUNY Cortland, such as Park Center, Lusk Fieldhouse and the track field. A full schedule can be found here.