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SOPA Press Conference 1Special Olympics PA President & CEO Matt Aaron pictured with York County athlete Loretta Claiborne at the York Expo Center's Utz Arena during a press conference.

Special Olympics Pennsylvania will bring its new Indoor Winter Games to York County starting in March 2019, with hundreds of athletes expected to showcase the power of the human spirit and the joy of sports during two days of exciting competition.

The Indoor Winter Games will feature floor hockey, figure skating, speed skating and bowling. It combines events that were previously held on a standalone basis, or as part of Special Olympics Pennsylvania's annual winter or summer games.

York County will also host the Indoor Winter Games in 2020 and 2021, with the possibility of extending the relationship even further into the future.

"There was a high level of interest in hosting this exciting new event, and York County faced strong competition from other destinations around the state," said Laura Gurreri, Director of Sales for the York County Convention & Visitors Bureau. "We are honored that Special Olympics Pennsylvania has entrusted us to host the inaugural Indoor Winter Games and hope that York County will be their home for years to come. Now, we start the hard work to make sure all athletes, their families and the dedicated staff and volunteers from Special Olympics Pennsylvania have a memorable experience when they arrive in 2019 and every year after."

Special Olympics Pennsylvania will host the inaugural Indoor Winter Games on March 2-3, 2019, and the first weekend of March in 2020 and 2021.

About 950 athletes, coaches and staff/officials from across Pennsylvania are expected to participate, with competitors ranging from 8 to more than 80 years old.

"Creating the Indoor Winter Games gives Special Olympics Pennsylvania another prominent platform to promote inclusion while showing the world the talents and abilities of people with intellectual disabilities," said Matthew B. Aaron, President of Special Olympics Pennsylvania. "By realigning several sports into an entirely new competition, we also expect to provide an even better experience for our athletes and maximize the number of participants who can compete in our state-level competitions."

The York County CVB's Sport York program has attracted dozens of lucrative events to the area throughout the past decade and established an impressive track record as a host location for competitions of all sizes.

In particular, York County has excelled in hosting large multi-sport events. The Keystone State Games just wrapped up another successful three-year stint in York County after hosting its annual summer festival of sports here from 2005-2010. York County also hosted the 2014 Cam-Am Police-Fire Games, a collection of 50 different events.

Those events have helped York County tap into a national sports tourism market that boasted more than $10 billion in visitor spending in 2016, according to the National Association of Sports Commissions. Locally, the York County CVB estimates that the Indoor Winter Games will generate more than $2.25 million in economic benefits for the community during its three-year stay.

York County's central location and exceptional venues proved a strong selling point for Special Olympics Pennsylvania. Competitors and spectators will never have to travel more than 20 minutes between four host venues.

SOPA Press Conference 2

The York Expo Center will provide an integral hub. It will host the Opening Ceremony, a dinner and a dance for the athletes, as well as the floor hockey competition.

Figure skating and speed skating events, previously part of the Special Olympics' Winter Games, will take place at the York Ice Arena.

While bowling has traditionally been part of the Summer Games, Special Olympics Pennsylvania will move it under the banner of the Indoor Winter Games to better align it with the training season. The bowling competition will take place at Colony Park Lanes North and Laser Alleys.

"Hosting an event of this magnitude is a true team effort, and we appreciate everything our community and partner venues have done to make Special Olympics Pennsylvania feel welcome," said Mark Sindicich, Chair of the York County CVB's Board of Directors. "York County has built an impressive resume hosting prestigious sporting events, and none of it would be possible without the hospitality and service our visitors find every time they visit."

Check Out Media Coverage from the Press Conference:

Central Penn Business Journal

York County to host Pa. Special Olympics Winter Games

York Daily Record

PA Special Olympics to hold Indoor Winter Games in York County starting in 2019

York County to host Special Olympics Pennsylvania’s New Indoor Winter Games

ABC 27 News

York County to Host New Special Olympics Indoor Winter Games