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Sin City Shootout to unite LGBT sports in Las Vegas
by Ross Forman, Windy City Times

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The 7th annual Sin City Shootout, a multi-event extravaganza of gay sports, has expanded by four sports for 2014, bringing the total to 16 events—with more than 6,500 people expected to participate and about 7,500 total attendees expected, including family and friends.

The event will be held Jan. 16-20 in Las Vegas, with kickball, billiards, darts and bowling now among the mix. The Shootout also features softball, ice hockey, flag football, basketball, soccer, bowling, golf, volleyball and tennis, among other sports.

It is the largest annual LGBT sporting event in North America.

"I am really excited for the 2014. With four new sports, there is something for everyone's athletic ability," said Shootout director Eric Ryan, of Los Angeles. "My goal for 2014 is to make sure 99 percent of our athletes, family and friends have a good time on and off the field. I know you can't please all the people all the time, but if we can please 99 percent, then I would call it a success."

After the 2013 event, organizers sent out a survey, and it received a 98.3 percent approval rating, Ryan said. "That's pretty darn good for such a large scale event, with all the moving components we put together."

The 2013 Shootout drew just under 6,000 participants—with Chicago residents participating in almost all sports.

"The 2013 ice hockey event was relatively small, as it was our first year," said Jeff Kagan, who lives in New York City and runs the NYC Gay Hockey League. "We plan to expand [the Shootout in 2014] by doubling the number of teams [participating]. We are planning for eight teams [in 2014, split between] recreational and competitive divisions." All hockey teams are co-ed.

"As 2014 is a Gay Games year, [the Shootout] is a good way for players to start working their way to the gold [at the Games]." Kagan is co-producing the Gay Games ice hockey tournament next August in Cleveland.

The inaugural Shootout in 2008 was strictly a softball tournament, with about 50 teams.

"The event grew bigger and bigger every year, and in year four, I had so many friends who played other LGBT sports hear the stories and good times our athletes were having and they said they wished they had an event like ours. So the light bulb went off and I started approaching other LGBT sport associations to see if they wanted to be a part of the Sin City Shootout," Ryan said.

Wrestling, bodybuilding and tennis were quickly added.

Softball remains the largest draw in the Shootout, with about 170 teams registered—which is about 15 more teams than participated this past August in the annual Gay Softball World Series. Ryan said there might be as many as 180 softball teams in 2014.

The Sin City Shootout is the largest LGBT softball event in the world for three consecutive years.

Bodybuilding, meanwhile, is the smallest sport at the Shootout, with potentially as few as four participants. "I encourage more people to sign up [for bodybuilding] as it really has nothing to do with how huge you are; that is just one category of the competition," Ryan said.

Kickball and bowling are also very popular events, Ryan said.

"I am always open to different sports being added every year. Most sports are either added by me contacting one of their representatives, or they contact me. I would love to add some type of aquatics, track and field events, or even martial arts," Ryan said. "The Sin City Shootout is so special because of the participants, no doubt about it. It is about each and every person attending having a good time, enjoying their stay, competitions and the camaraderie all the sports bring together as one."

Andrew Sobotka, president of the Chicago Gay Hockey Association ( CGHA ), skated with and against CGHA members in the 2013 event—and he said it was a "great experience."

"To have that many gay athletes and allies in one place was spectacular," Sobotka said. "Just being able to see how many people participate in athletics at so many different levels was very interesting. From a hockey perspective it was funny to see thousands of gay softball players and then realize that there were only about 50 gay hockey players. Gay hockey has a long way to go to catch up to softball."

The Tropicana is the host hotel once again, with all rooms reserved for the event.

"For a Las Vegas strip hotel to be so welcoming to the LGBT community and let us totally take over the hotel and make it ours, from banners everywhere, to all the dealers wearing shirts with our logos and even our Sin City Shootout logo with a rainbow background in neon lights 100-feet up on the Las Vegas Strip, it's amazing."

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