What do 8,000 athletes from around the world know that you don’t?
Well to start, it’s that the self-proclaimed, largest, international LGBTQ+ sporting event happens right here in Las Vegas. Traditionally held over Martin Luther King Jr. Day weekend, the Sin City Classic Sports Festival (Sin City Classic) is entering its 13th year and shows no signs of slowing.
Founded in 2008, the multiday event has grown to include more than 20 sporting events and is hosted annually by The Greater Los Angeles Softball Association (GLASA). GLASA is a 501(c)(3) sports organization that owns and operates the festival. It works with more than 20 LGBTQ+ sports-league partners to make the event a success. Sporting events include a remarkably diverse cross-section of opportunities for competition. From basketball to darts. Softball to ultimate frisbee. There seems to truly be something for everyone. Yes, even e-sports and cornhole.
“We’ve worked hard to make the event a welcoming space for the greater LGTBQ community and our allies,” said Tournament Director Ken Scearce. “It started with softball, but we quickly began to find partners who could help us build a broader, more inclusive event.”
The tournament has evolved into the unofficial kick-off to the LGBTQ+ tournament season and a welcomed respite from a busy holiday season at the end of the year. Tournament organizers attribute some of their success to a steadfast focus on creating a holistic experience that keeps attendees coming back for more.
“Vegas is a destination on its own,” Scearce said, “and while the event has well-established roots in competition, the reality is that the opportunity for connection and social interaction is just as much of a draw for our attendees.”
The Opening Party routinely draws about 4,000 people and the Closing Party isn’t far behind at 3,500.
Connect and compete. This simple equation has proven fruitful for the festival and is directly linked to its ability to meet the demand for new and different types of events. By establishing partnerships with other existing competitive organizations, Sin City Classic can offer a broader range of opportunities for competition.
“Only softball is organized directly,” Scearce said. “The majority of our events are organized and executed through agreements with valued partners.”
New for 2020, spike ball, cornhole, basketball and steel tip darts have been added to the lineup.
The scale of the Sin City Classic Sports festival is impressive. In the coming year, there will be 1,200 more attendees than in previous years. Event organizers have worked closely with the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Bureau and other key hospitality partners to ensure the availability of the physical space required to pull off such an event.
“We reserve approximately 30 venues ranging from ball fields to gyms and convention space,” Scearce said.
The economic impact of the massive event is yet to be quantified officially. But let’s just say that it would be near impossible for 8,000 athletes (not to mention supporters and fans) not to boost the local economy over the long weekend. Organizers are mindful of the footprint and attempt to construct an even framework that is beneficial for both festival attendees and hospitality partners. “We understand the appeal of being in the middle of the action on the Strip for visitors,” Scearce said. “So, we have purposefully nurtured relationships with multiple properties in lieu of striking a deal for a takeover at just one property.”
How does one set about starting the mother of all sports festivals?
For Scearce and his team it started with their own positive experiences with athletics. As a lifelong athlete he sought the comfort and familiarity of organized competition and later realized he had something more to offer.
“I had developed this skill set for my professional life and I realized it could be put to good use for others if I applied it in this way,” Scearce said. “It means everything to me to hear people say that they feel free to be themselves in a judgement-free environment made just for them. This event needs to exist for people like us.”
For more information about the event to be held Jan. 16-19, visit sincityclassic.org.