METRO WEST DAILY NEWS – Held at UMass Amherst since the 1980s, the Special Olympics’ annual August Tournament will have a new home next summer.
Officials from the Special Olympics of Massachusetts and Mayor Arthur Vigeant announced Wednesday the two-day bocce, cycling, golf and softball tournament will be held at sites in Marlborough and surrounding towns in August 2016. The tournament is expected to bring more than 1,000 athletes and 500 volunteers to the city.
“This is a really exciting day in the city,” Vigeant said outside the Special Olympics of Massachusetts’ headquarters on Forest Street Wednesday. “We’re really looking forward to next August. It will be a fun weekend. It’s great to have it at home.”
Matt Ruxton, vice president of sports for the Special Olympics of Massachusetts, said bocce competitions will be held at Fore Kicks in Marlborough, while softball games will be played at the New England Baseball Complex in Northborough. Sites for golf and the 5K and 10K cycling competitions are still being determined.
“We’ll have state-of-the-art facilities,” said Ruxton.
Gregg Gallant, a Special Olympics athlete from Shrewsbury, is excited about playing at the new fields in Northborough.
“The new baseball field is awesome,” said Gallant, who participates in skiing, soccer, volleyball and softball.
The organization opted to move the tournament from UMass to Marlborough due to the high quality athletic facilities in the area and to provide volunteers and spectators easier access to the events, said Mary Beth McMahon, president and CEO of Special Olympics of Massachusetts.
“We have the community that can get involved,” said McMahon.
Although Special Olympics athlete Maria Decew will not likely participate in next year’s tournament, she will be in attendance cheering on her friends.
“I’ll be able to go and watch because it’s closer,” said Decew, of Westborough. “I’ll be happy to go and cheer everybody on.”
The tournament will focus primarily on “Unified Sports,” a Special Olympics initiative where athletes with and without disabilities participate as teammates.
“Our athletes are always hearing people tell them they can’t do it and we’ll have a community that is telling them they can,” said McMahon.
Along with being a big hit with the athletes, the tournament is expected to be a boon for local businesses as Tim Cummings, executive director of the Marlborough Economic Development Corporation, expects local restaurants, hotels and retailers to be busy the weekend of the games.
Special Olympics of Massachusetts is planning a social media campaign to rename the August Tournament, said McMahon.
This article by Jeff Malachoskwi originally appeared here.