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Keystone Games expected to bring up to $41.6 million to York County

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The Keystone State Games will return to the York area for three years starting in 2015, bringing millions in economic impact for York County, state and local officials said.

The games, an amateur athletic competition held every summer since 1982, are expected to bring a direct benefit of $23.8 million to the county, said Anne Druck, president of the York County Convention and Visitors Bureau. Total economic benefits are expected to top $41.6 million. As part of the agreement, York also will host the 2016 Pennsylvania Senior Games, which are held every two years.

Five regions made a pitch to host the Keystone State Games for the next three years, said Owen Costello, the games' CEO.

"The competition is fierce, but we're up to the challenge," Druck said during a news conference this morning at York College.

York was chosen for several reasons, Costello said.

"We feel York has great facilities, especially the York Expo Center, and the county's centralized location is ideal for attracting participants," he said, adding that the games draws competitors not only from Pennsylvania but also Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, West Virginia and Washington, D.C.

The multi-sport competition is an Olympic-style event that started in New York with the Empire State Games in 1978, according to the convention and visitors bureau. Florida and Massachusetts also hold similar competitions.

The Keystone State Games started after the General Assembly approved a resolution from then-state Rep. Joseph R. Pitts, R-Chester, in 1980, according to the convention and visitors bureau. Keystone State Games Inc. was formed as a nonprofit corporation in 1983 to ensure the games continued without being solely dependent on government funding. The corporation also runs the Winter Sports Festival and Pennsylvania Senior Games.

The games first were hosted in State College, then began rotating around the state. They also have been held in Wilkes-Barre, the Lehigh Valley and Johnstown. The Hershey-Harrisburg area ends its contract to host the games this year; it has hosted them since 2011. York last hosted the games from 2008 to 2010 and once before, in 2005.

"Welcome home," York Mayor Kim Bracey said of the games. "This is a huge win for the county, the city and the state of Pennsylvania."

Other elected officials, including state Rep. Kevin Schreiber, state Sen. Scott Wagner and county Commissioner Doug Hoke, stressed the economic benefits and visibility the games bring to the host region. Aside from hotel rooms booked, there will be gas pumped into vehicles and food eaten, they said. Folks will be able to experience the history and culture of the region.

"There will be thousands of people and millions of dollars," said Schreiber, a York College alumni.

The school will be the site of some of the events.

"This is great exposure for York College," said Paul Saikia, the school's assistant dean for athletics and recreation and its associate athletic director.

Jen Muston, the college's women's lacrosse head coach, participated in the games previously and said they will bring a special experience, as well as an economic boost.

"It was a like a mini-Olympics," she recalled. "I believe people even parachuted into the stadium."

Hosting sporting events is growing industry in York County. It will be hosting about 2,000 people for the Can-Am Police-Fire Games, an international competition for emergency responders, July 13-20.

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