Iowa Games takes new direction with opening ceremonies


Photo: Kelsey Kremer/Iowa State

Teams made up of people from all different areas of Iowa compete in the Iowa Games Ultimate Frisbee tournament on Saturday, July 7, at the South East Athletic Fields east of Jake Trice Stadium. Iowa Games consists of many different sports, and the competitions take place in Ames each summer.

Stephen Koenigsfeld

A staff of just nine individuals sat at a meeting and discussed how they could improve next year’s Iowa Games.

Coming off last year’s 25th anniversary, it would seem that the staff set the bar high for themselves for the coming year. But looking ahead, the bar has reached a new height.

Clarence Hudson, executive director of the Iowa Games, said planning and preparation for the Iowa Games takes a full year to ensure each and every event runs smoothly.

“What really has to happen is everybody has to come together,” Hudson said. “And our staff does a great job where everybody pitches in.”

Hudson mentioned the small staff of just nine executive members do anything from staying cool and planning locations of each event to braving the summer heat and painting lines on the soccer fields.

Last year, the main headliner for the Iowa Games was former NFL star Tim Dwight competing in 25 events for the 25 years. This year, new opening ceremonies will have fans, athletes and volunteers oohing and aahing.

Hudson laughed with excitement as he described what was going to be happening with the opening ceremonies this year.

“As they would say in the hip-hop world, it’s going to be ‘off the shizzle,'” Hudson said.

Cory Kennedy, director of marketing and communications for the Iowa Games, said a drastic change they are making this year is the venue of the opening games.

Even though the ceremonies will be moved to the parking lot east of Jack Trice Stadium, the emotional feel of the parking lot will be transformed into a more welcoming atmosphere.

“It’ll be a lot better for us to manage,” Kennedy said. “Inside the stadium was a lot of fun, but it was almost too big of a venue for us. If we had 30,000 people in the stadium, that would be unbelievable. But we’re looking to have 7,000 to 8,000 people.”

Kennedy said the Iowa Games’ new sponsor, the Food and Family Project, is one of the main reasons why the staff decided to take a new direction with the opening festivities.

“[The Food and Family Project] saw potential last year with the event, and it’s because of them why we’re able to offer a free athlete meal to the first 2,200 people,” Kennedy said. 

Because the Food and Family Project and the Iowa Games are working closely together now, a greater cause can be reached at this year’s games.

“Every $5 donated feeds 15 hungry Iowans,” Kennedy said. “So that’s another cool thing for us to do, is to give back.”

Kennedy talked about how important it is for them to give back to a community that gives so much to the Iowa Games. Kennedy said they are predicted to have 2,200 to 2,500 volunteers for the games.

Kim Abels, the special events director of the Iowa Games, said they took in a lot of consideration from the public and athletes that attend the opening ceremonies every year. 

“We got feedback from people that attended our opening ceremony,” Abels said. “It wasn’t necessarily bad in years past, but we just felt moving forward, that we needed to change something.”

Abels said hearing from the athletes and fans, it sounded like what they really wanted was more entertainment meant more for the entire community.

“We wanted to make it more fun and entertaining for the athletes and the whole public,” Abels said. “We really want to invite the community of Ames to come out to our event.”

One idea the staff had in mind about changing the all-around structure of the opening ceremonies was having the Ames community more involved with not only the ceremonies, but Iowa Games as well.

Once this year’s Iowa Games conclude, feedback will pour back into Abel and her staff, and they will begin to work towards next year’s games.

Hudson said the future of the Iowa Games is looking brighter each year.  With record numbers and bigger entertainment acts, Hudson said he does not see “why you would not want to be a part of it all.”

“We’ve had record numbers in our events, in our winter games and in our summer games,” Hudson said. “We continue to grow; we continue to tweak things, and we continue to make things better.”

The Iowa Games plan on having bigger and better entertainment acts and more activities for the whole community of Ames not only at this year’s summer games but in the future as well. 

For now, athletes and volunteers alike will be waiting for July 13 to hear those famous words.

Let the games begin.