The Quad-Cities will kick off the inaugural Winter Iowa Senior Games next month with seven sports and competitions on both sides of the river.

The new event, which will be hosted Feb. 24-26 by the Iowa Senior Games, was announced Tuesday by former Iowa Hawkeye quarterback Chuck Long, now the CEO and executive director of the Iowa Sports Foundation.

"We're excited to be in the Quad-Cities for the first time and we look forward to putting on a great event for many years to come,'' Long said at a news conference at the Center for Active Seniors, Davenport.

Matt Beatty, director of the foundation's Iowa Senior Games, said nearly 250 Midwest athletes are expected to compete. The new winter competition is open to men and women age 50 or older. It is not limited to Iowans, he said. 

"At our regular Iowa Senior Games, we've seen 10 to 12 states represented," he added.   

Sports will include bowling, pickleball, shuffleboard, swimming, table tennis, indoor tennis, and indoor track and field. Ten age groups will be offered to men and women with gold, silver and bronze medals awarded to the top three in each age group event.

Long said that in the past, seniors wishing to compete in the Iowa Senior Games have had to travel in June to West Des Moines, where the summer event has been hosted for 30 years. Two years ago, the foundation began taking the competition across Iowa adding two regional events: in Council Bluffs in 2015 and Cedar Rapids in 2016.

According to Long, the games have attracted seniors from age 50 to 95 including a 93-year-old 100-yard dash champion. "For me it's inspiring. I'm 53 and I have these aches and pains and then you see a 93-year-old run the 100-yard dash. It puts a little bit of perspective, I'm not that bad off."

With an increasing number of Iowans and other being older than the age of 50,  he said it is important to bring the events to the participants and promote healthy activities. Long has regularly participated in the summer games, and plans to do so in the new version. 

"This is just another opportunity for people to compete," Beatty said of the winter-time event. He added that athletes will not need to qualify to compete and do not advance to another event. 

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With the Iowa Senior Games, however, top athletes advance to the National Senior Games and world competition. That event reaches nearly 1,500 people each year from 20 states and Canada.

Joe Taylor, the president and CEO of the Quad-Cities Convention & Visitors Bureau, said it is too early to tell where the games will draw competitors from and what the economic impact will be. But he added "This matches the Quad-Cities' goal of creating more winter (tourism) product. This is part of a larger effort to create year-round destinations." 

In addition to the bureau, the games are partnering with Bettendorf Parks & Recreation, Center for Active Seniors, Davenport Parks & Recreation, Quad-City Senior Olympics, Scott County Family Y and UnityPoint Trinity. Competitions will be held at locations across the bi-state region.

Registration for the Winter Iowa Senior Games is $25 through Jan. 23 and $30 until the Feb. 13 deadline. Iowa residency is not required. For more information or to register, visit iowaseniorgames.org.

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