An annual gay softball tournament has expanded into a Gay Games-esque event, offering a weekend in Las Vegas filled with 12 sports/events.
The 6th annual Sin City Shootout is set for Jan. 17-20, 2013, featuring ice hockey, basketball, soccer, tennis and more.
"I have attended dozens of softball tournaments and thought if you take the best thing from each of those, and put them all together, it would be an amazing event," said Eric Ryan, who lives in Los Angeles. "In 2007, I scouted out cities to host the event, [along with] fields, hotels and clubs in those cities to see where we could accomplish all I wanted to do."
The first Sin City Shootout softball games were played in 2008 and the number of teams participating increased annuallymaxing out for the last two years at 175 teams.
"In 2010, I had friends who played in other LGBT organizations tell me that their tournaments don't have all the elements we do. That sparked an idea in my head to start inviting other LGBT sports organizations to hold their own tournaments alongside [the] softball [tournament,]" said Ryan, 42, a firefighter by trade who is now the tournament director and creator for the Sin City Shootout.
Softball was followed by wrestling and bodybuilding, forming the first multi-sport event in 2012.
The 2013 eventwhich the Greater Los Angeles Softball Association will host and which Ryan will producealso will feature dodgeball, Frisbee, golf, bridge and volleyball.
"All the athletes and sports organizers involved [in the 2012 event] told me that they had a great time. With all of our collective buying power together we were able to get discounts for the attendees on show tickets, restaurants, hotel, etc.," Ryan said. "For 2013, I ended up sending an introduction of myself and the event to dozens of LGBT sporting associations, and out of that, 11 replied and loved the idea of all the organizations [coming] together."
Ryan said his goal for the Sin City Shootout is simply "to give the athletes the best possible bang for their buck; this includes not only money, but nightly events, deals on hotels, restaurants and travel."
Ryan said about 6,000 are expected to attend, which includes athletes, family and friends. The majority of the registered participants are from the U.S. and Canada, though the worldwide LGBT sporting community will be represented by participating athletes from England, Mexico and Australia, among other countries.
The majority of the registered athletes are 25 to 45 years-old and about 80 percent are men, Ryan said.
There are co-ed and women's-only divisions for some sports.
Softball is the most popular sport, with about 3,500 participants.
Many players from Chicago will be participating in multiple sports, including softball and hockey, among others.
"I wanted [this event] to try to appeal to everyone," Ryan said. "When I attend a LGBT tournament, I want to know where is everyone going, what hotel are they staying in, etc. So starting with the hotel I wanted to make sure the rates were as attractive as possible, so [participants] will stay there. Our host hotel is the Tropicana. The hotel and its staff has been incredible, going out of their way to make sure our athletes have the best possible experience and welcoming them. The Tropicana wants our athletes to feel at home."
The Tropicana is offering 20 percent off at all of its restaurants during the event, even Starbucks.
"We all know a six-pack of beer costs about $6.99 so when you have some clubs charging $5 for a single bottle, you feel like you are being cheated. So I made sure to work with each nightly host bar on drink specials," Ryan said. "The Sin City Shootout participants have exclusive drink specials available only to them at all of the host venues each night.
"The success of the event will solely depend on the athletes having a good time. At the Sunday [night] closing party, it's time to let go and have a good time, partying with your competition and seeing those smiles and new friends being made between the different sports is the success."
Ryan said participants can play multiple sports over the weekend.
"We have 800 rooms at the Tropicana Hotel," Ryan said. "This is 75 percent of the entire hotel, so the hotel will be gay, gay, gay for sure [that weekend]. But it will also have lots of options for attendees, such as shows, restaurants, spa, tranquil pool and then of course the nightly parties. The hotel casino dealers will be wearing our event shirts to make us feel welcome and a part of the Tropicana family. The Tropicana really is going above and beyond to make us feel welcome."
For more information, go to www.sincityshootout.com .