Special Olympics move to Centerville for 2014

Track and field events for the Special Olympics of Greater Dayton competition will be held this year at Centerville High School, a change from the program’s usual venue at Welcome Stadium.

The sporting event for more than 500 athletes with intellectual disabilities will be held April 26 at Centerville High School. The move comes after a scheduling dispute between a local organizer for the Special Olympics and the Dayton Public Schools athletic department.

“We’ve been out there for about 40 years,” said Vicki DeAtley, the local coordinator for the Special Olympics of Greater Dayton. “That’s the first time this has ever come up that we weren’t able to get in at an appropriate time.”

DeAtley said organizers at Welcome Stadium offered Special Olympics a 2014 contract the day of last year’s event, but had given the 2014 date away by the time she returned the contract.

Jonas Smith, Dayton Public Schools director of athletics, declined to comment on DeAtley’s claim regarding a 2014 contract, but did say the school district offered Special Olympics two available dates.

“We gave two dates to Special Olympics, April 5 and May 10,” Smith said. “They can feel free to come back on either one of those dates.”

DeAtley said the event is always held the last Saturday in April. She said the earlier date offered by Dayton Public Schools could not be used due to weather concerns. For the date in May, DeAtley said it would be too late for athletes to qualify for state-level competition.

Smith said Dayton Public Schools want the Special Olympics at Welcome Stadium.

“It’s not a case that they cannot come back to Welcome Stadium,” Smith said. “We’ve called several, several times and have not received a phone call back.”

DeAtley said other local school districts offered their facilities to Special Olympics before deciding to hold the competition at Centerville High School.

“We’ve had a couple of high schools say we could use their facilities, but the only one that would work for us was Centerville High School,” DeAtley said.

Rob Dement, Centerville High School athletic director, said he welcomes the chance to host an important event.

“I know they were in need of a place to host the event,” Dement said. “We are certainly welcoming of that opportunity.”

Still, DeAtley worries some athletes will not be able to find the event in Centerville.

“There are quite a few athletes who live in Dayton proper, in the city, and their only mode of transportation is the bus,” DeAtley said. “I am concerned that a lot of them will miss the chance to do what they would like to do because they can’t find the place.”

DeAtley said more than 500 people with intellectual disabilities compete each year at the event. According to the organization’s website, athletes must be at least eight years old to compete, and may continue to compete their entire lives. In Ohio, Special Olympics serves more than 23,000 athletes, according to the website.

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