ALBANY — Officials announced plans Monday to host the inaugural Aurora Games at Times Union Center next August.
The Aurora Games will be a six-day event consisting of women’s sporting events and entertainment options. The plan is for the event to happen on an every-other-year basis, and feature professional athletes in basketball, tennis, figure skating, hockey and beach volleyball. Approximately 15 countries are already set to have athletes represented at the Aurora Games, which will feature competitions designed around an “Americas Team vs. the World Team” format.
“We couldn’t be more thrilled about it,” Bob Belber, SMG manager of Times Union Center, said during Monday’s press conference. “To have it come to Albany when it could have gone to just about any other major city in the United States, I can’t say enough about how much we appreciate it.”
Belber was originally contacted by Jerry Solomon, the creator of the event, to see if there was an SMG facility in a larger city for the event. Belber, though, pitched Solomon on Albany and the renovations made to Times Union Center.
Solomon attended March’s NCAA women’s basketball tournament games in Albany, and came away impressed with the facilities and the support shown for those games. More than 20,000 fans attended the two days of basketball games.
Digit Murphy, the former head coach of the Brown University women’s hockey team who said Monday she will coach the Americas hockey team at the Aurora Games, said Albany is a perfect-sized city for a first run of the event.
“We try to go to these huge cities and compete with all these major sports,” said Murphy, who is on the event’s advisory committee, “but a town like Albany has the love and the feeling for women that we want.”
Solomon said he started envisioning the Aurora Games while watching the 2016 Olympics with his wife Nancy Kerrigan, the famed figure skater.
“You know,” Solomon said to his wife, “for the first time ever, there are more women than men on the U.S. Olympic team — and I think they’re doing better than the men, but you don’t hear about them as much.”
The Aurora Games is an event meant to change that. Solomon said the games will have national and international broadcast deals that will be announced soon, and the expectation is more than 50,000 fans will attend events during the six-day event.
Pairing a number of sports together for the event made sense to Donna de Varona, a two-time Olympic gold medalist who is a consultant for the Aurora Games. Women’s sports, she said, can go further if there is coordination between different sports.
“We don’t get anywhere if we don’t speak with one voice,” de Varona said. “Look at the #MeToo movement. Unfortunately, it took the revelations of terrible treatment of women, not only in sports with our great gymnasts, but [also] what happened in Hollywood [for changes to be made].”
Next year’s event will run from Aug. 20 to 25. Besides the sporting events, the days of activities will also include musical performances, food tastings, sports clinics, autograph sessions and more. Solomon noted several times that athletes competing at the Aurora Games would be readily accessible to interact with fans throughout the six days.
“We’re going to celebrate women’s sports like it’s been been celebrated before,” Solomon said.
Reach Michael Kelly at [email protected] or @ByMichaelKelly on Twitter.
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