The Minneapolis Convention Center will be the site of the USA Gymnastics Championships next June, the USA Gymnastics National Congress and Trade Show, and the USA Gymnastics for All National Championships and Gymfest.
Organizers are now calling Minneapolis “Gymnastics City USA 2024,” because along with the three scheduled events, the 2024 U.S. Olympic Team trials will also be held over the course of nine days, beginning June 22, 2024, at the downtown basketball arena. The U.S. Olympic national team will also be announced there.
Nearly 8,000 participants and tens of thousands of fans are expected to be in Minneapolis during that time. But will this flock also attract Blacks?
The MSR raised that question during a big June 13 announcement event that included Minnesota Governor Tim Walz, USA Gymnastics President and CEO Li Li Leung, and others making presentations.
Gymnastics, with few exceptions, has historically been known as a White sport. But according to a 2021 AP report, Black women gymnasts now make up almost 10 percent of NCAA Division I scholarship athletes, up seven percent from 2012. Over 10 percent of USA Gymnastics members claim they are Black.
“First of all, I was a gymnast, and so my little Black girl is super excited,” declared Gabrielle Grier, the partnerships and engagement lead person for Minnesota Sports and Events (MNSE). “This is the first time in history where there will be a number of Black gymnasts that will be performing on the national stage. I’m just really excited to be a part of this. I’m really excited to get our community engaged.”
Simone Biles, St. Paul’s Suni Lee, and Jordan Chiles have been key players in the U.S. women’s Olympic delegation. Both Biles and Chiles are Black, and Lee is Hmong.
“Obviously having a person of color as the face of this event, Suni Lee could inspire many of the underserved communities of our areas to believe that they can be part of this event,” noted Meet Minneapolis Executive Director Melvin Tennant. He is one of the highest ranking Blacks who have helped attract large sporting events to Minneapolis in recent years.
These events include the Super Bowl, two All-Star games (MLB and WNBA), and last year’s Women’s Final Four among many others. The Big Ten will hold its annual basketball postseason tournament here next March, the second time for WBB and the first time ever for MBB.
“We’re just really excited to have both of these major events in our community,” stressed Tennant. His organization and MNSE are partners in staging these sporting events. The latter got $6 million in the Explore Minnesota tourism budget passed by the state legislature in May, and the $5 million cost of hosting the Olympic trials will be covered by public and private funds according to published accounts.
“It takes a huge team,” stated Tennant. “We’re working very closely with Minnesota Sports and Events. Many of our team members are involved day to day recruiting these events, but also executing them.”
Minnesota Lt. Governor Peggy Flanagan told the MSR, “I’m just really excited about what this means for our community and especially for all these young girls who get to see those role models who look like them, who come from their community. It’s a game changer.”
“I think we’re showcasing our great city, our great state,” said Walz after he talked to reporters. “If we’re going to put on a great event, Minneapolis is the best place to do it.”