The Capital Region is about to make women’s sports history. The Albany Times Union Center and the Albany Capital Center are hosting the inaugural Aurora Games, a one-of-a-kind, international, multi-sport, female-athlete-only competition. The games kick off on Tuesday, August 20 and run until Sunday, August 25, showcasing nearly 150 world-class athletes from more than 20 countries, including rising superstars such as 13-year-old US Figure Skating champion Alysa Liu, who just this year became the youngest ever national figure skating champion; Canadian tennis player Bianca Andreescu, who won both the 2019 Rogers Cup and Indian Wells Masters; and 2019 Beach Volleyball World Champions Melissa Humana-Paredes and Sarah Pavan.
The driving force behind bringing the unique event to the Capital Region? Jerry Solomon, a sporting events creator and longtime sports agent/manager, who’s been in the business for nearly four decades. Solomon’s written a book on the subject, entitled An Insider’s Guide to Managing Sporting Events, and his long list of clients has included eight-time grand-slam-winning Czech-American tennis champ Ivan Lendl; Olympic gold-medal swimmer Janet Evans; and Shannon Miller, a two-time Olympic gold-medal gymnast. (Solomon’s wife is figure skater Nancy Kerrigan, who won Olympic silver in ’94, despite being brutally attacked at the games.) About his inspiration for the Aurora Games, Solomon says: “I was watching the 2016 Olympics when it occurred to me that there were way more women than men on the US Olympic Team that year.” Though 2012 was the first year that women outnumbered men on the US Olympic Team, with female athletes outnumbering their male counterparts by six, 2016 saw that number jump to 30. “The women were doing much better than the men that year, but I noticed the men were getting the bulk of the coverage,” says Solomon. “And it occurred to me that there should be a standalone sporting event, where women weren’t under the umbrella of male athletes or being compared to them.”
Solomon started discussing the Aurora Games concept with some of the athletes he’d represented and other people he was connected to in the business and everyone seemed to think it was a great idea. Fast-forward three years and now Solomon is serving as the executive producer of the inaugural games. The six-day competition will group athletes onto one of two teams, Team Americas or Team World, and will see them face off against one another in six different major women’s sports—tennis, gymnastics, basketball, ice hockey, figure skating and volleyball—one for each day of the games. The overall winner of all these sporting events will take home the Babe Didrikson Zaharias Trophy, named for “Babe” Zaharias, the 1932 Olympic gold medalist, professional golfer and all-around athletic polymath. “We’re providing a platform for these great female athletes to really showcase their talents,” says Solomon. “It’s going to be a great opportunity for adults and kids alike to come out and get a taste of what’s going on in the highest echelons of women’s sports.”
Though the opening ceremonies commence on the 20th, the Aurora Games officially kick off Monday evening at 5:30pm, with a free community celebration, featuring live music, a movie screening, meet-and-greets with former Olympians and a fireworks display, all at the Empire State Plaza. All week during the Aurora Games, the Albany Capital Center, which is linked to the Times Union Center and Empire State Plaza via a walkway, will be hosting a free, festival called the Fan Zone. Guests to the event will be treated to everything from sports clinics and seminars to autograph sessions, a table tennis exhibition and a “Conversations with Champions” workshop series led by female champions and empowerment role models.
As for why Solomon chose Albany as the site for the inaugural games, he says that had a lot to do with Bob Belber, the Times Union Center’s general manager. “[Belber] and I have known each for quite some time, and he said that he wanted me to bring [the games] to Albany, and only Albany,” says Solomon. He’d previously been thinking of hosting the competition at Madison Square Garden in New York City. “But at the end of August, the people who live in New York City are primarily up near Albany and Saratoga and Lake George, so by going there, we’re really taking it to the same people,” he says. “And it’s just a beautiful area that has so much to offer.” Solomon also cites the area’s connection to the women’s suffrage movement, which this year is celebrating its centennial, as another reason he wanted to bring the games to Upstate New York. “This area was really the cradle of the women’s suffrage movement,” he says. “There’s a lot of symmetry there, which makes it that much more exciting.”
The Aurora Games run through Sunday, and tickets are still available. For more information, click here.