15,000 Welcome Empire State Games to Buffalo

Posted on July 22, 2010 by Patrick Moran

ESG Logo BuffaloFor the fifth time in its history, the Empire State Games returned to Western New York with opening ceremonies taking place Wednesday evening at UB Stadium in front of a near-capacity crowd of over 15,000, according game’s director Fred Smith.  The crowd is believed to be one of; if not the biggest opening ceremony crowds in the game’s history.

Over 6,000 of the best athletes from throughout New York State took the stadium field. Conceived in 1978, the Games didn’t take place for the first time last year in Hudson Valley due to state budgetary problems.  The last games took place in 2008 in Binghamton.

The last time the games were in Buffalo was in 2003.

Buffalo native and Olympic champion Steve Messler led the Western New York contingent into the stadium.

Among the speakers Wednesday night was former Buffalo Bills great Steve Tasker. The headline act was Third Eye Blind, who sang many of their hits, including “Jumper”, “Semi-Charmed Life” and “How’s It Going to Be”.

The games figure to give Western New York a much needed economic boost.  The 2006 games in Rochester brought in over $10-million to their economy while the 2007 games in Westchester County generated an estimated $13-million.

The Empire State Games are comprised of six regions of New York State; Adirondack, Central, Hudson Valley, Long Island, New York City and Western New York.

The actual competition begins Thursday morning with a host of events at venues throughout Western New York.  There will be 28 men’s and women’s sports contested this year.

Glamorous opening ceremonies aside that for the athletes had the feel of a mini-Olympics, actual competition is what the participants are most anxious to have happen.

For most, that starts on Thursday morning.

“I’m really excited to get this thing going,” Western New York scholastic basketball point guard Aaron Nevins said.  “The opening ceremonies were great, the crowd was awesome and the atmosphere is something I’ll always remember.  But after all the wait, I’m ready to go on the court and represent my high school (Canisius) and Western New York.”

Nevins along with the rest of his teammates and other regions competing are well aware that many future NBA stars displayed their skills at these games.  Some of those players include Elton Brand, Chris Mullin, Kenny Anderson and former Nichols legend Christian Laettner.

Other famous Empire State Games alumni include past Olympic Gold Medalists Diann Roffe, Jeff Blatnick, Abby Wambach, Cathy Turner, Jimmy Shea and Sarah Hughes.  Former WNBA star Sue Bird and world champion boxers Mike Tyson and Hector Camacho are among the famous former participants.

For a complete list of the Empire State Games schedules and locations, visit the official website right here.

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