UPDATE: Special Olympics Summer Games to return to Columbia

City will host the event through 2015
Thursday, June 16, 2011 | 1:38 p.m. CDT; updated 6:14 p.m. CDT, Thursday, June 16, 2011

COLUMBIA — Columbia native Leanna Krogmann won three gold medals and one silver at the 2011 Missouri Special Olympics State Summer Games. Tomorrow, she will board a flight to Athens, Greece, to represent Team USA as a swimmer at the World Games.

Still, when MU Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Cathy Scroggs told Krogmann Thursday that she was looking forward to seeing her dive from the “very, very high” platform at the MU Student Recreation Complex, Krogmann shook her head adamantly.

Krogmann, 27, just learned to dive in 2010 and is scared of heights to this day. She might not be diving at the recreation complex, but Krogmann said she plans to swim there in 2012.

With the help of Missouri Special Olympics Chairman Randy Boehm, Krogmann announced Thursday that Columbia will host the Missouri Special Olympics State Summer Games each of the next four summers, keeping the games here until 2015.

“We looked across the state for the best facilities and community support, and we landed on Columbia,” said Missouri Special Olympics Spokesperson Mandi Steward.

The 2012 games are scheduled to take place over three days beginning May 29 and will take place at Walton Stadium, Stankowski Field and the MU Student Recreation Complex. The event will bring more than 3,500 athletes and 1,500 spectators to Columbia.

Boehm estimates it will take about 1,000 volunteers to pull off the Special Olympics. Special Olympics Missouri considered that when it chose Columbia.

“We have a tremendous number of committed volunteers here in this community,” Boehm said. “They’ve stepped up in the past, and we know they will in the future.”

The Special Olympics also hopes Columbia businesses will become sponsorship partners. Boehm said the event will cost about $190,000 to put on; sponsors can reduce that expense.

Barbara Hoppe, Sixth Ward representative to the Columbia City Council, said the Special Olympics will be both an economic and a spiritual boost.

“When you have 4,000 people coming to Columbia, that has an economic impact on the community, which is always great in these hard times,” Hoppe said. “The type of event this is brings more than just an economic impact. It encourages active, healthy living, and it encourages everyone to reach their potential. It’s a great uplifter."

Over the past decade, the site of the State Summer Games has shifted several times. Springfield hosted the State Summer Games from 2008 to 2011. Its four-year bid came to an end with the conclusion of the 2011 games in May.

Columbia hosted the games from 2002 through 2007. The games moved from the Army's Fort Leonard Wood in 2002 after an outbreak of bacterial meningitis threatened public health.

Amy Schneider, acting director of the Columbia Convention and Visitors Bureau, said it's an honor for Columbia to have the games return.

"We love the athletes, and we love having their families here," she said.  "It is a privilege to see how hard these athletes work and to know that we're able to host them."

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