UNL welcomes Special Olympics USA National Games


Husker Nation is putting out the welcome mat for more than 30,000 athletes, parents, coaches, volunteers and fans for the 2010 Special Olympics USA National Games, set to kick off on campus July 18 with a grand opening ceremony at Bob Devaney Sports Center.

The event - the largest single special event ever situated at UNL - ends nearly two years of planning and coordination between the 2010 Special Olympics USA National Games and the city of Lincoln, Chamber of Commerce, the university and other officials, representatives, volunteers, coaches, parents and athletes, and puts Nebraska in the forefront of a high-profile international event.

University facilities utilized during the five-day event include Bob Devaney Sports Center, Campus Recreation, Cook Pavilion, Coliseum, Kimball Recital Hall, Mabel Lee Fields, Ed Weir Track and Andersen Hall. Special Olympics athletes, coaches and chaperones will stay and dine in Harper, Schramm, Smith, Neihardt, Pound, Cather and Abel halls and The Village.

Event listings and schedules and other information for spectators is on the Special Olympics USA National Games Website, http://www.2010specialolympics.org.

Participants begin arriving in Lincoln July 17, with delegations arriving at Duncan Aviation and Eppley Airfield during special airlifts; aircraft arriving with athletes every 90 seconds. The first events begin July 18 with golf, basketball, powerlifting, softball, track and field, aquatics, tennis, bocce, bowling, flag football, soccer, gymnastics and volleyball. Opening ceremony is 3 p.m. July 18 at Devaney Sports Center.

Several family-oriented and health-service opportunities are planned for participants throughout Lincoln. The University of Nebraska State Museum will offer half-price admission to Morrill Hall July 17-25 for all 2010 Special Olympics USA National Games credentialed athletes, coaches, family members, volunteers and special guests. Special Olympics participants must show their credentials at the front desk to qualify for this discount. Half-price admission will be $2.50 for adults, $1.50 for children, and $5 for families. The regular Mueller Planetarium fee will apply.

"We are delighted to help Nebraska host this important national event and we are pleased to have had our staff put a lot of time and effort into planning and coordinating with our visitors," said Christine Jackson, vice chancellor for Business and Finance, which is overseeing the event contract and preparations. "We are proud to share our campus with Special Olympics and we look forward to a great week of competition and camaraderie."

The university often hosts summer conferences to utilize vacant residence halls and facilities, providing some added revenue while the campuses aren't as busy and to support area tourism and economic development. UNL along with Lincoln Convention and Visitors Bureau and Nebraska Special Olympics submitted and won the bid in 2007 to host the 2010 National Games. The estimated economic impact of the games to the local economy is at least $40 million, including approximately $265,000 in facilities rental fees and around $900,000 in housing and food service charges for as many as 4,000 participants during the eight-day event.

UNL is responsible for preparing and staffing the competition venue sites, the opening and closing ceremony site, housing, food service, parking, meeting rooms and operational support.

Faculty, staff and students on campus during the week will notice primarily the vast number of people on campus, the increased number of buses traveling around campus, and more cars parking in the lots and garages.

Dan Carpenter, director of Parking and Transit Services, recommends that campus visitors plan ahead for their campus destination and to check the parking map online at http://parking.unl.edu to find the most convenient and appropriate parking.

"Everyone coming to campus during the games should have little trouble finding parking but will just need to plan ahead to be sure to be in the proper lot," Carpenter said.

Public parking is available at the Stadium and 14th and Avery parking garages, and volunteer and overflow parking is at the Haymarket Park. Carpenter said shuttles are for credentialed participants (athletes, coaches, volunteers, family). See the Special Olympics Website for details.

"The 2010 National Games is a wonderful opportunity to place the city of Lincoln and UNL on a national stage and to showcase our campus," Jackson said.

- Kelly Bartling, University Communications

More details at: http://www.2010specialolympics.org