From January 12-15 there will be over 8,500 athletes, coaches and fans representing 25 different sports congregating in Las Vegas to help celebrate the Sin City Shootout (SCS) turning 10. Starting with A for arm wrestling and ending with W for wrestle and grapple, almost any sport you can think of will be participating in what is now the largest annual LGBT sporting event in the world. So much for the myth that gays don’t play sports!

This weekend festival just continues to grow. The SCS staff makes sure it all runs smoothly and that all the parties taking place each night are fun … and loud. Then each sport has a coordinator who organizes the playing schedule and logistics for the weekend. The newest sport to join SCS this year is diving and the person acting as its coordinator is David Freedman who served as one of the coordinators for the Olympic diving competition at the summer games in Rio. Any sport not already represented that is interested in participating is always invited to contact tournament director Eric Ryan.

Ryan also happens to be the founder of the SCS and was named as a 2016 Connect Sports Game Changer for being “at the top” of his game as well as the SCS being named a 2016 Champion of Economic Impact in a mid-to-large market by Sports Destination Management. But how did all this happen? It certainly didn’t start with a big tournament, only with a big idea.

As an athlete traveling to tournaments, what do you do about expensive and less-than-adequate transportation and accommodations to areas with great fields; or the reverse, where the transportation and accommodations are great but the fields are lousy? If your name is Eric Ryan, an out softball player with a Type-A personality, you start your own tournament and create it from a player’s perspective. And ten years ago next month, that’s exactly what he did.

He strategically selected Las Vegas because air fares and accommodations there are always plentiful and well-priced. With the year-round lure of casino gambling and high-end entertainment, that seemed like a no-brainer. But what about sports? Unless you have a travel or Chamber of Commerce background that actively promotes all types of local attractions, sports doesn’t necessarily come to mind when you think of “Sin City.”

The nice surprise for many is that Las Vegas, infamous for being Sin City, has a very athletic and sporting side to it. There are a number of great outdoor and indoor venues for sports like softball, flag football, basketball, tennis and golf that are either public or attached to local concerns, like the University of Nevada, Las Vegas campus or public golf courses, for example. And given its history as a western town before it turned to glitz and glamour, Vegas also has an equestrian center with specialized accommodations for horses that even include climate controlled stalls.

All this factored into Ryan’s long-term plans back in 2007. He dreamed of creating a large tournament where athletes in multiple sports could compete during the day and then socialize after the sun went down. With Vegas able to accommodate a growing tournament, the next decision was to hold it over a holiday weekend for maximum attendance and Martin Luther King holiday in mid-January fit the bill.

But the genius in his plan was to save money for individual athletes, teams and leagues. As a member of the Greater Los Angeles Softball Association (GLASA), Ryan proposed that GLASA take on all the exposure and liability in order to use its large buying power to get the best venues and prices on everything from room rates to travel. In 2008 his dream became reality. That year there were 40 softball teams (figure 15-20 people per team) that came to play, a figure that grew to 70 teams in year two. By 2010 they decided to add basketball to the tournament play, followed in 2011 by five sports and over 4,000 people involved. Quite a change from the 25 sports and the anticipated 8,500 people participating in 2017!

So start 2017 on the right foot by having the time of your life playing sports, catching up with old friends, making some new ones and dancing till you drop. You won’t regret it since “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.” If you’re planning on heading to the SCS, however, be sure to register early since the host hotels sell out quickly each year.

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By Harry Andrew