The News Tribune - 1/15/2012 -- Tim Waer is always a high-energy guy, but on Saturday afternoon he was flying.
On the fifth floor of the Greater Tacoma Convention & Trade Center, he dodged a pair of tattooed skaters from the Dockyard Derby Dames and nearly collided with a quadriplegic rugby player exiting the elevator in his wheelchair. Two tiny boys dribbling basketballs wanted directions to the hoops court.
Waer’s phone was buzzing, and the radio strapped to his shoulder was calling his name: “Tim? Tim?”
He sat down for a break from the first Let’s Play Sports and Fitness Fest.
“Sixty days ago, the idea for this didn’t even exist,” Waer said. “My staff thought I was nuts to even try it.”
Waer is the president and CEO of Tacoma South Sound Sports (formerly the Tacoma-Pierce County Sports Commission), a business-trade organization that promotes the South Sound as a venue for amateur sports.
Working with the Children’s Museum of Tacoma, Waer and his organization put together this weekend’s event, an exposition of just about every imaginable fitness activity, from Zumba, rock climbing and sport stacking to more traditional pursuits, such as gymnastics and soccer.
They did it more or less on the fly, after a previously scheduled gymnastics event at the convention center fell through.
In spite of the tight schedule, it was clear by midday Saturday that Waer had a hit on his hands.
More than 2,000 kids and their parents already had shown up, Waer said, with a full day of the festival left to go today when the whole thing cranks up again.
“This is probably my proudest moment,” Waer said.
The point of the Let’s Play festival, he explained, involves several layers of synergy. Bringing out the dozens of local amateur sports clubs in the area to show off what they do, conduct clinics and maybe participate in some low-key competition helps the clubs by building interest and adding members.
It helps kids discover new, healthful interests, he said. And it helps strengthen the marketing concept of Tacoma as a venue for amateur sports events, which helps the local economy.
“It’s a win, win, win, win thing,” Waer said, “and you can just keep on adding the wins.”
It seemed to be working for Madeline Zent, a 13-year-old junior high school student from Graham.
“Me and my friends were hoping we could try some new sports and learn some new hobbies,” Madeline said.
Her first stop was the fencing floor, where she wore a wire mask and faced off against Andy Glynn, an instructor with the Metro Tacoma Fencing Club.
After a five-minute match of thrusts and parries, Madeline was exhilarated.
“I got two points on him,” she said. “But I think he was going easy on me.”
“This would definitely be a sport I’d like to continue,” she said.
Waer was exhilarated, too. He wants to make Let’s Play an annual event.
“Everybody just jumped on this with almost no marketing,” he said. “We’re definitely going to have to expand this thing for next year.”
“If we were able to do this in 60 days,” he added, “think what we can do in a year.”
Weekly Volcano 1/11/2012 -- Tim Waer, executive director of the Tacoma-Pierce County Sports Commission, is glowing with that combination of exhaustion and exhilaration one gets at mile 23 of a marathon. For good reason. Over the past 50 days, he and his staff of six have scrambled to give life to a long-term idea the Tacoma-Pierce County Sports Commission has held, bringing the emphasis on sports back to Tacoma.
The dream suddenly became a reality when a gymnastics tournament needed some help paying for space at the Greater Tacoma Convention and Trade Center over the holiday weekend of Jan. 14-16. A lemons-into-lemonade concept was born: spin the gymnastics tournament into what Waer hopes will be an annual event, the LET'S PLAY! Sports and Fitness Fest, an ambitious, all-inclusive celebration of Tacoma's unsung amateur sports clubs.
Says Waer, "I'll walk up to a group of teens, point at one, then another and say ‘name a sport, any sport.' Chances are it's going to be represented at the festival."
One teen recently tried to stump Waer, shouting out "Fencing!"
Insert game show buzzer sound here: the Metro Tacoma Fencing Club is confirmed for both a demo and a competition.
Zumba? You got it. Karate, quad rugby and stand-up paddleboard are all participating, along with the usual suspects like baseball, basketball and tennis. Many of the sports listed on the festival home page may be unfamiliar (dragon boat racing?).
Skip Google and just show up.
Each sports club will have a booth with a representative ready to share with attendees what it's all about and how to get involved. Many will offer beginner classes as part of the festival's schedule. There will also be opportunities to participate in rock climbing, T-ball and even an interactive toddler area for the little ones to blow off some steam. Monday, the LET'S PLAY! Sports and Fitness Fest will wraps up with the "LET'S WALK" event, where non-perishable food collected on behalf of the Emergency Food Network during the LET'S PLAY Festival will be walked the 2.5 kilometers to the Tacoma Dome and delivered during the city's annual MLK celebration.
"It's all about playing and experimenting, and maybe even falling in love with a sport you've never tried before," says Waer. "Come in your sweats and get ready to move."
South Sound event producer Quincy Henry, who's behind the Grit City Fest among other things, joined Waer and his staff to arrange a line-up of entertainment designed to attract all ages, from the kids' musical sensation Recess Monkeys and the Tacoma Rainiers mascot Rhubarb to the Seahawks Blue Thunder Drumline.
Not bad for the festival's flagship event. As Henry points out, "It's a process. As the festival grows and returns year after year, the special guests will be more likely to join in early, and confirm."
Due to what initially looked like a scheduling conflict, the festival's dates (Jan. 14-16) coincide with the Children's Museum of Tacoma's long-awaited grand re-opening at their new location (1501 Pacific Ave. ). This happy accident led to a meeting of the minds in which the festival and the museum will partner to celebrate learning through play and sports. Capitalizing on the potential activity downtown, the Children's Museum of Tacoma will act as a co-host of the LET'S PLAY! Festival.
The LET'S PLAY! Sports and Fitness Festival and its partners have a mission for Tacoma that's beneficial both on an economic level and on a level closer to home for most of Tacoma's nearly 200,000 residents. Not only will the festival, its attractions and tournaments bring out-of-towners to Tacoma, meaning money spent on things like lodging and food, but it will bring a renewed awareness to health and teamwork to all who attend. Sport psychology studies show participating in sports is an effective way to help manage anxiety and build self-confidence - essential tools for success for an individual and, big picture, for the community.
To be able to say, "I was there" at Tacoma's first ever LET'S PLAY! Sports and Fitness Festival, Waer and Henry say come on down to the Tacoma Convention Center MLK Weekend. Curious observers, participants: all are welcome. So are volunteers, something the festival still needs. If you are interested in volunteering, you can call 253.327.1786 or email quincyh@ tacomasports.org.
LET'S?PLAY! Sports and Fitness Festival
Jan. 14-16, Saturday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Sunday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday "Let's Walk!" starts at 9 a.m., free, Greater Tacoma Convention and Trade Center, 1500 Broadway, Tacoma, letsplaytacoma.org
The News Tribune Blog -- 1/11/2012 -- U.S. figure skating champion Kimmie Meissner will be in Tacoma on Saturday in advance of her performance in “Pandora Unforgettable Moments of Love On Ice” later this month.
Meissner will appear at 10:30 a.m. at Let’s Play! Sports and Fitness Fest taking place at the Greater Tacoma Convention and Trade Center. Meissner will participate in some of the activities, give a brief talk on her career as a professional ice skater and sign autographs.
The Fitness Fest is a two-day event hosted by Tacoma-Pierce County Sports Commission and the Tacoma Children’s Museum. The event has opportunities for kids and adults to participate, educate, and compete in a variety of recreational sports.
Click on “more” to learn about the “Pandora” show.
WHAT: “Pandora Unforgettable Moments of Love on Ice” brings romance to the ice rink. Olympic, World and National medalists, led by Ekaterina Gordeeva and Ilia Kulik, perform to numbers from Kenny G and Gladys Knight performed live to entertain the audience. The show will take place on January 26 and NBC will tape the show for a February 4, national broadcast. It is part of the Pandora NBC Skating Series. More information is available at www.dissonskating.com. Presented locally by The Joint Center at Valley Medical Center.
WHEN: Thursday, January 26, 7 p.m.
WHERE: ShoWare Center, Kent, WA
TICKETS: $39.50, $59.50, $69.50, $100 (w/dinner), $125 (on ice w/post-event reception)
Kenny G and Gladys Knight
Ekaterina Gordeeva Two-time Olympic Pairs Champion
Four-time World Pairs Champion
Ilia Kulik 1998 Olympic Champion
1996 World Silver Medalist
Joannie Rochette 2010 Olympic Bronze Medalist
2009 World Silver Medalist
Sasha Cohen 2006 Olympic Silver Medalist
2006 U.S. Champion
Kurt Browning Four-time (1989-91, 1993) World Champion
Four-time (1989-91, 1993) Canadian
Miki Ando Two-time (2007 & 2011) World Champion
Two-time (2006 & 2010) Olympian
Kimmie Meissner 2006 World Champion
2007 U.S. National Champion
2007 Four Continents Champion
Steven Cousins Eight-time British Champion
Ryan Bradley 2011 U.S. Champion
2007 U.S. Silver Medalist
Kristi Yamaguchi 1992 Olympic Champion
Two-time World Champion
Nancy Kerrigan Two-time Olympic Medalist
Two-time World Medalist