CI ROAD TRIP: Special Olympics spark tourism boom in Twin Cities

NORMAL, Fig. (WMBD) – This summer, WMBD will take a trip and showcase what community viewers call home. This week our stop is normal!

This weekend, Special Olympics Illinois (SOILL) will host its annual summer games in the city for the first time since 2019. The event was not held for two years due to COVID-19, but a virtual version was held.

4,000 athletes will compete on Friday, Saturday and Sunday in a variety of athletics including football, swimming, track and field and even powerlifting. Visit BN director of sports and market development Matt Hawkins said this is one of the biggest events held in the area every year.

“We are thrilled to have the Special Olympics Summer Games in our community,” Hawkins said.

Hosted by the Twin Cities since 1977, the SOILL Summer Games are back this year for a three-day weekend full of competition and fun. For the local economy, tourism income is estimated at $800,000.

“June is a busy month for the Bloomington-Normal community with many people staying overnight at our hotels, eating at our restaurants, visiting our malls,” Hawkins said.

The Summer Games, hosted by the University of Illinois, are hosted by thousands of athletes, coaches and their families, but the City of Normal is also showing its support with a Saturday night victory dance.

“About 5,000 people will gather in Uptown Normal for the Victory Dance, we will block the street in front of the Normal Theater … Their families came to support them, there is music, there is dancing,” the city’s director of culture and art said. Normal, Beth Wisman.

While Special Olympics Illinois is headquartered in the city of Normal, Wisman said that doesn’t guarantee the city will be able to host the games.

“We compete for this, Bloomington-Normal as a convention and visitors bureau and the University of Illinois work together to be able to do this every year, we never take it for granted,” Wisman said.

“I think Bloomington-Normal has shown over the years that we do things right and are hospitable,” Hawkins said. “When these people come here for an event or tournament, they have a great time and usually want to come back and do it all over again. That’s one of the reasons we’re here as CVB, to help them have a good time while they’re here, and to keep these people coming back to our community every year.”

Games start on Friday and run until Sunday.

The events take place primarily at the University of Illinois, however Kingsley Jr. High School and Normal Community High School also host some SOILL events.

  • Kingsley Junior School
  • ISU internal fields
  • University of Illinois
    • Rhythmic Gymnastics (Horton Field House)
    • Bocce (baseball stadium)
    • Softball throw (football stadium)
    • Throwing a tennis ball and a mini-jaw (Hancock…

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