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Inaugural Aurora Games name Albany host site for all-woman sports competition

October 16,2018 09:15

ALBANY — The City of Albany was named as the official host site of the inaugural Aurora Games, an international, world-class, all-women's multi-sport competition and entertainment festival. The first-of-its-kind event will be held at the Times Union ...



People gather for a press conference at The Times Union Center on Monday, Oct. 15, 2018, in Albany, N.Y. It was announced at the event that the Aurora Games would be coming to Albany in August of 2019. (Paul Buckowski/Times Union) less
People gather for a press conference at The Times Union Center on Monday, Oct. 15, 2018, in Albany, N.Y. It was announced at the event that the Aurora Games would be coming to Albany in August of 2019. (Paul ... more
Photo: Paul Buckowski, Albany Times Union
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Photo: Paul Buckowski, Albany Times Union

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People gather for a press conference at The Times Union Center on Monday, Oct. 15, 2018, in Albany, N.Y. It was announced at the event that the Aurora Games would be coming to Albany in August of 2019. (Paul Buckowski/Times Union) less
People gather for a press conference at The Times Union Center on Monday, Oct. 15, 2018, in Albany, N.Y. It was announced at the event that the Aurora Games would be coming to Albany in August of 2019. (Paul ... more
Photo: Paul Buckowski, Albany Times Union
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Aurora Games to bring elite female athletes to Albany in 2019
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ALBANY — On a late August night two years ago, Jerry Solomon was home in Massachusetts watching the closing ceremonies of the Olympics with his wife, former figure skater Nancy Kerrigan.
It seemed there were more female athletes than male competitors at the Games held that year in Rio de Janeiro — and the male athletes got much more coverage and publicity, he remembers saying.
The 64-year-old Solomon, one of the nation's top sports marketing executives for more than 30 years, developed an idea:
An event, exclusively for female athletes from around the world. Sounded good to him. Sounded good to his wife, too.
Those ideas became reality Monday when it was announced that the inaugural Aurora Games will be held at Times Union Center next August. Solomon led a news conference at the arena Monday afternoon saying the six-day event will be held Aug. 20-25. The plans are for the Aurora Games to be held every two years — future sites have not been determined.
Solomon calls this event a showcase for the “best in women’s sports, entertainment and culture” and an opportunity for “women to have the spotlight on them only.”
"I just felt the time was right for doing something like this where we are totally focused on women's sports," Solomon said.
Professional stars of women’s tennis, gymnastics, basketball, figure skating, ice hockey and beach volleyball will take part in the events, all of which will be held at the downtown arena.  The competition itself will pit North and South America against the World.
Solomon said there are 15 countries that are interested in competing. He is hoping there will be between 20 and 30 when the event arrives next summer.
"I think this is super exciting," Kerrigan said by cellphone from her home in Massachusetts. "I am always surprised and impressed when Jerry comes up with these ideas. He is excited to get this going. His brain never stops."
Kerrigan said she expects she will be in Albany for the Aurora Games.
Kerrigan, who won a bronze medal in ladies singles at the 1992 Olympics and a silver in 1994, is part of the impressive list on the Aurora Games advisory board. Also on board are gymnast Nadia Comaneci, a nine-time Olympic medalist; tennis player Chris Evert, an 18-time Grand Slam champion and Jackie Joyner-Kersee, a six-time Olympic medalist in track and field.
Two-time Olympic gold medalist swimmer Donna de Varona, who will be a consultant for the Aurora Games and chair of the athlete advisory board, was at the press conference as was Margaret "Digit" Murphy, who will coach the North and South American hockey team at the games.
At first, Solomon said Albany wasn't on the list as a possible site.  His looked at Madison Square Garden and about "30 different locations." He said there was interest in the event in bigger markets.
Once Solomon learned about the nearly $20 million upgrades recently made to Times Union Center and the new Albany Capital Center he began to see the possibilities. Because the downtown venues are connected the events can all take place indoors, which was a big plus. Also, he has worked with Times Union Center General Manager Bob Belber in the past.
Last March, he was in the building when the women's NCAA East Regional basketball final was held. He was impressed.
"We needed to go to a building that had the ability to turn over one sport to another to the next and the next and the next over a six-day period," Solomon said. "We knew it could be done here. We wanted to make sure we were in the hands of an organization that really understood big time sports. We saw that women's sports can draw big crowds here. Albany fit in so many respects."
Last March, the NCAA Women's East Regional drew a two-day total of 20,180, boosted by fans of top-ranked and regional winner Connecticut.
Athletes will be paid to participate in the Aurora Games and there will also be prize money.
Belber said the event will cover the arena's expenses and Times Union Center will share in the profits.
"I think this will be a successful event," Belber said. "If the tickets are priced correctly and they bring in the big names, superstar names from all the different countries, I think it will be a huge success."
Solomon said daily tickets will range in price between $25 to $150 with full series tickets available at a discount. He said they will go on sale on March 8, which is International Women's Day.
The Aurora Games will take place when the sports world's attention will already be trained on the Capital Region because of Saratoga Race Course, and more specifically the Travers Stakes, which will take place Aug. 24 next summer.

For more information, check out http://auroragamesfestival.com

"We see that as a plus," Solomon said. "There will be a lot of people in the area and a lot of interesting sports going on. I see that as a good thing."
twilkin@timesunion.com • 518-454-5415 • @tjwilkin

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