In Hartford this past August, USA Gymnastics hosted its annual P&G Gymnastics Championships in collaboration with its educational event, the USA Gymnastics National Congress & Trade Show. The organization attracted more than 3,000 attendees—both professionals and athletes—which was a record number for Hartford.
“We basically owned the city,” says USA Gymnastics CEO/President Steve Penny, who helped organize the event. In addition to all of the banners and signage posted throughout Hartford, the city’s Trumble Street was dubbed “Tumble Street” in honor of the event. That was just the beginning of Hartford’s welcome.
This was the second time the event came to the city since 2010 because Hartford proved to be a great partner, says Penny. Host hotels Hartford Marriott Downtown and Hilton Hartford showed great enthusiasm for the event by having hotel staff don event-centric collared shirts.
“I think what’s great about the hotels in Hartford is how accommodating they are to really allow a group like ours to brand itself in the community so that our brand was pretty much visible everywhere you went from the minute you checked in at the hotel,” says Penny. “Everything was done to really turn it into our town.”
Apart from the gymnastics championship happening in the XL Center and the educational trade show at the Connecticut Convention Center, the event had several other activities for attendees and the community to participate in throughout the four days. USA Gymnastics was celebrating its 50th anniversary. As part of that celebration, the organization held a Hall of Fame induction ceremony at The Society Room of Hartford, where they inducted the 2007 Women’s World Championships Team and 2012 Olympic Team into the Hall of Fame.
At the XL Center, attendees and members of the community could walk through the USA Gymnastics 50th Anniversary Museum, which featured a combination of pictures, historical items and videos that showcased the USA Gymnastics’ accomplishments and champions through the years. Members of the 2012 Olympic Team and other popular gymnasts offered autographs to guests.
A creative way to incorporate the city’s restaurants into the event was the Capital City’s Taste of the Championships. The restaurant program was designed as a friendly competition between six restaurants to see which could create the most gymnastics-friendly menu items. Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra and Olympic gymnastics coach Bela Karolyi served on the panel of judges who reviewed the signature dishes.
The group invited the community to come to free Morning Fitness classes at the Old State House on the Thursday and Friday mornings of the event. Olympian John Macready and local fitness organizations ran the activities, which ranged from yoga to pilates to a boot camp. Shannon Miller, who was part of the 1996 Olympic Team, even made an appearance.
“Hartford basically said we’ll jump through any hoop we need to make you feel welcome,” says Penny. “I mean the mayor sits with us every night during competition. He’s become a good friend of USA gymnastics…. Everything about Hartford has been, ‘How do we make you feel welcome in our city?’ And that’s really what’s made it special for us.”