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Akron, Gay Games officials look to successful week of events

2/27/2014 - West Side Leader
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By Stephanie Kist

Thomas Nobbe, executive director of the Gay Games 9, which will take place Aug. 9-16 in Akron and Cleveland, addressed Akron City Council members and city officials on the afternoon of Feb. 24.

More than half a dozen events will take place in Akron-area venues, including soccer, baseball, softball, track and field at The University of Akron, a marathon and half marathon, a rodeo at the Summit County Fairgrounds in Tallmadge and rock climbing at Kendall Cliffs in Appalachian Outfitters in Boston Township.

“Clearly the Games will be good for Akron and the Akron economy,” Nobbe said. “The Games are going to be really good for Akron and Northeast Ohio.”

Nobbe said organizers project each participant will spend $1,200 to $1,500 to be part of the Games, especially those who travel from overseas, paving the way toward a projected $40 million benefit to the community.

Among the information shared by Nobbe:

  • Ninety-seven percent of the fundraising goal already has been met. The Akron Games has raised its budget, and officials are committed to breaking even or finishing in the black.
  • A total of 1,700 volunteers have already signed up, on course for the 3,000-4,000 needed. Organizers hope to recruit 1,000 volunteers and participants from Akron.
  • Entertainment during the week will include a street festival with an Indigo Girls concert in Downtown Akron and Lock 3 Park and a square dance at the county fairgrounds.
  • Organizers are working with METRO RTA, among other entities, to coordinate transportation between Cleveland and Akron for the week.

Council President Garry Moneypenny (D-Ward 10) said he wanted to stress a piece of information that might not be common knowledge — that participants are welcome from any sexual orientation. Nobbe said participants only need to be 18 and older and can participate no matter their abilities or whether or not they are gay.

“It’s about diversity,” he said, and added the ninth Gay Games might see more participants who are not gay than other events, as this area’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community is smaller and “more and more people from outside the LGBT community are really involved.”

He said that the Federation of Gay Games “took a radical departure” in choosing Akron and Cleveland, but “chose a place where there are an opportunity for the Games to be a catalyst for change. … Akron has stepped up big time.”

Mayor Don Plusquellic mentioned a group of local ministers has come together to talk about preaching tolerance in the weeks leading up to the Games.

“I think it’s a great credit to our community,” he said.

Later, in legislative action at the regular Council meeting that evening, Council approved a resolution supporting the Gay Games in Akron and Cleveland with an 11-2 vote. Councilmen Jim Hurley (D-Ward 2) and Mike Freeman (D-Ward 9) voted against it.

The resolution states in part, “The City of Akron is honored to be a sponsor of the 2014 Gay Games and part of this international legacy of changing cultural, social and political attitudes towards lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people across the world.”

For more information on Gay Games 9, including how to participate or volunteer, visit www.gg9cle.com.

In other business, Council unanimously approved a resolution honoring Akron Police Department Capt. Martha Sullivan upon her retirement. She was a zone commander for South and Southwest Akron since 2002 and held many other positions in the department in her 33 years with the force, according to the resolution.

“I have been blessed to have this career,” she said moments before a standing ovation in Council Chambers.

The next Akron City Council meeting will be March 3 at 7 p.m. in City Council Chambers on the third floor of the Akron Municipal Building, 166 S. High St. in Downtown Akron. Committee meetings are scheduled to begin at 2 p.m. that afternoon, also in Council Chambers.

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