The Special Olympics Kansas Summer Games will be held at the Maize school district next year – primarily at Maize South High School – after more than three decades at Wichita State University.
Chris Hahn, CEO and president of Special Olympics Kansas, said the move will allow the program more flexibility and the chance to work more closely with high school students.
“Sometimes it’s time to look at opportunities which exist for your organization as you want to move forward,” Hahn said.
The state group’s annual Summer Games, which started in 1969 in Parsons, moved to Wichita South High School in 1978, Hahn said. Since 1984, track and field events have been held at WSU’s Cessna Stadium and aquatics events at the nearby Heskett Center.
Hahn said there “weren’t any major problems” with holding the games at WSU, but conflicts with other campus events and the annual Wichita River Festival became more of a challenge in recent years.
“On occasion there were times that we both needed the same facilities, and it just didn’t work out from a timing perspective,” he said.
“I don’t think it’s anybody’s fault. We just felt like we weren’t continuing to grow the program and put in opportunities for athletes that we would like to.”
Maize USD 266 will host the 48th Special Olympics Kansas Summer Games on June 2-4. Maize South High, 3701 N. Tyler Road, will serve as the primary host.
Last year, 1,333 athletes and 397 certified coaches representing 61 programs participated, officials said.
The move will allow the organization to hold its opening ceremonies in the air-conditioned gymnasium at Maize South, Hahn said. Aquatics events likely will be held at the Northwest Branch YMCA, he said, although details still are being worked out.
The group also plans to work closely with public school students, “which is a point of emphasis for the Special Olympics organizations across the country,” Hahn said.
“This opportunity to work closely with high school students on the integration of regular and special-needs students is very compelling,” he said.
Maize superintendent Chad Higgins praised the new partnership at a news conference in Maize on Tuesday.
“I believe we’re the lucky ones in this new relationship,” Higgins said. “I’m eager to watch Maize USD 266 and our students and our greater community grow with this experience.”