LAWRENCE: Special Olympics to bring $116m to this region

By the time the last of the visitors and athletes leaves Mercer County after the 2014 Special Olympics USA Games in June, they will likely have spent more than $116 million in the area.

By Lea Kahn, Staff Writer
   By the time the last of the visitors and athletes leaves Mercer County after the 2014 Special Olympics USA Games in June, they will likely have spent more than $116 million in the area — that’s the message that was delivered by business officials last week.
   Mercer County will play host to more than 3,500 Special Olympics athletes, 1,000 coaches, 10,000 volunteers and more than 75,000 family, friends and spectators at the weeklong 2014 Special Olympics USA Games — which means they will spend money on food, hotel rooms and entertainment.
   The 2014 Special Olympics USA Games will showcase the athletic abilities of children and adults with intellectual disabilities. The goal is to promote acceptance and inclusion through sports, according to Special Olympics New Jersey officials.
   The Special Olympics athletes will compete in 16 Olympic-style team and individual sports. Some of the sites to be used are Rider University, The Lawrenceville School, The College of New Jersey, Princeton University and Mercer County Park.
   Those team and individual sports range from aquatics to cycling, power lifting, flag football, soccer, basketball, volleyball, softball, bocce ball and golf, tennis, bowling and gymnastics, according to Special Olympics representatives.
   ”We are less than 200 days away from one of the most inspirational events to ever take place in New Jersey,” said TJ Nelligan, chairman and chief executive officer of the 2014 Special Olympics USA Games.
   ”The 2014 USA Games will leave a lasting legacy and change the perception nationwide of how individuals with intellectual disabilities are perceived and accepted,” Mr. Nelligan said.
   Meanwhile, a report on the economic impact of the 2014 Special Olympics USA Games was released by the MIDJersey Center for Economic Development at the Dec. 5 press conference. It was held at the Special Olympics New Jersey headquarters at 1 Eunice Kennedy Shriver Way, off Princess Road in Lawrence.
   ”One of the things we wanted to do was to demonstrate the importance of these games to this region,” said Robert Prunetti, interim executive director of the MIDJersey Center for Economic Development. There is also the social value of the games, but “we want everyone to know” about the economic impact, he said.
   The economic impact includes an estimated $3.8 million for hotel accommodations, and $22.1 million for tourist spending by the 75,000 visitors who are expected to attend. Also, airfare and bus travel costs for the 51 delegations of Special Olympians and their coaches has been pegged at $636,300.
   Mr. Prunetti pointed out that the visitors will likely want to explore the area and may take side trips to places such as Great Adventure or the New Jersey State Museum.
   The 10,000 volunteers who are expected to help out with the event will have an economic impact of their own. They are expected to spend about $400,000 on hotel rooms, transportation, entertainment, dining and sightseeing.
   ”We want to let all of the businesses in our region understand the opportunity here. We want to put our best foot forward for all of the visitors that will be coming to the region,” Mr. Prunetti said, adding that perhaps other similar events can be attracted to the region.
   Also at the press conference, officials announced that Gov. Chris Christie will be the honorary chairman of the 2014 Special Olympics USA Games at the request of the athletes.
   And officials announced that 21st Century Fox has joined forces with the games as a founding partner and presenting media sponsor. The games will be broadcast on the company’s channels, which include FOX News Channel, FOX Business Network, FOX Broadcasting, FOX Sports, FX, National Geographic Channel and 28 local stations, as well as FOX Sports 1.