Location, Location, Location

Reprinted from PN/Paraplegia News July 2019

Selecting host cities for the National Veterans Wheelchair Games takes a bit of methodological madness

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Over the last six years of heading up the National Veterans Wheelchair Games (NVWG), the Games’ Director Dave Tostenrude has learned they’re more than just an event. They’re a way to expand outreach to paralyzed veterans.

Co-sponsored by Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), the NVWG are open to veterans with spinal-cord injury (SCI), multiple sclerosis, amputations, traumatic brain injuries and other central neurological impairments. The Games’ goal is to increase veterans’ independence, healthy activity and quality of life through wheelchair sports and recreation. That’s why selecting a host city is so important.

So, just how does a city become a host city? Well, that’s a highly scrutinized, well-thought-out, two-year process. Sites are selected strategically, according to Tostenrude, and cities and communities where they haven’t had the Games before are targeted. The key now is finding cities where they can help more veterans, not only with sports but with education and opportunities.

“We look at communities that strategically, for both VA and PVA, there’s an opportunity to reach out to new veterans, to expand relationships with the community services, to expand opportunities for the veteran community in those areas because during the week of the Games in that community, we are first and foremost throughout the community and the press, etcetera, so it’s a great opportunity to highlight the services that VA and PVA have available to support veterans,” says Tostenrude, who took over after NVWG Director Tom Brown stepped down in 2013. 

City Selection

This year, for the first time in NVWG history, the Games are headed to Kentucky and run from July 11–16 in Louisville. 

It takes two years to plan the Games. So, the winning bid for the 2021 NVWG will be announced this summer. 

Bids are accepted in February and that’s when they’re evaluated by the bid review team. That team consists of Tostenrude, PVA Senior Associate Director of Sports and Recreation Jen Purser, VA administrative officer Kristie Goedhard and PVA Director of Meetings Hannah Buchholz. They check out everything — from airports, hotels and facilities to transportation, finances and even storage places. Typically, only one or two cities compete each year, Tostenrude says. After reviewing the bids, Tostenrude and Purser write a bid report that goes to PVA and VA leadership that gives the recommendation for the year. They try to get the bid selection in by mid-June, with the goal of announcing the decision at the NVWG. The cost ranges between $1.5 million and $2 million, Tostenrude says. 

Now in its 39th year, the NVWG will head to its 31st city this July. Long Beach, Calif. (1982, 1989 and 2003), and San Antonio (1988, 1993 and 2000) have hosted the NVWG the most of any city at three times apiece, while Milwaukee (1982 and 2007), Dallas (1986 and 2015), Pittsburgh (1998 and 2011) and Richmond, Va. (1981 and 2012), have each hosted the Games twice. 


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