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April 19, 2013

Cleveland Foundation sponsors Gay Games

Also forms ongoing legacy fund for local LGBT groups

Cleveland--Gay Games 2014 is exploding across Northeast Ohio, announcing its first national sponsor and the first naming sponsor in the 31-year history of the Gay Games.

Next year’s ninth quadrennial event will be officially be “2014 Gay Games presented by the Cleveland Foundation.” The foundation announced a $250,000 grant to the Gay Games on April 10, along with the formation of a legacy fund that will be introduced at the conclusion of the Games.

The fund will be a source of money for LGBT organizations seeking financial support, and will also present those interested in working in the LGBT community opportunities to do so.

The Akron Community Foundation has had the Gay Community Endowment Fund since 2001, and has put over $180,000 into the area’s LGBT community since then. The Cleveland Foundation’s LGBT legacy fund stands to outstrip that, but it is not just the economic benefits to LGBT organizations in Cleveland that make the Cleveland Foundation’s move notable.

“We’re getting feedback from around the country of how significant it is that the Cleveland Foundation has stepped up like it has,” said Tom Nobbe, the executive director of Gay Games 2014. “Foundations around the country are expressing an interest in working with the LGBT community.”

Cleveland Foundation president Ronald B. Richard noted, “The foundation was impressed with the broad community support for the Games from the very beginning, when Cleveland won over the bigger competing cities of Boston and Washington D.C.”

“We are proud that this fund will serve as a legacy to the Gay Games,” said Kaye Ridolfi, senior vice president of advancement at the foundation. “We will be reaching out to the community in the upcoming months to get ideas on shaping the fund so it can best serve our region.”

The same day the Cleveland Foundation sponsorship was announced, Ernst & Young LLP, a 110-year-old accounting firm, came aboard as the first national sponsor for the 2014 Gay Games in Cleveland and Akron. The company is donating $100,000.

It is not the first time Ernst & Young have sponsored the Gay Games; they were sponsors of the 2006 event in Chicago, and were a sponsor for London’s bid to host the games in 2018.

“Ernst & Young knows that fostering a diverse and inclusive workplace leads to better results--for our clients and our high-performing teams,” Steve Howe, managing partner of Ernst & Young Americas, said. “Sponsoring the Gay Games underscores our commitment to leading in the market with our diversity and inclusiveness initiatives and to making inclusiveness real for everyone.”

Ernst & Young has scored 100 percent on eight consecutive Corporate Equality Indexes, compiled by the Human Rights Campaign. The company has an LGBTA employee group, Beyond, and joined an amicus curiae brief in the case before the Supreme Court challenging the Defense of Marriage Act.

A number of venues for the 2014 Gay Games were also announced on April 10, including the Quicken Loans Arena as the site of the opening ceremony. The arena seats about 20,000 people, while nearby Progressive Field can seat 40,000 and Browns Stadium holds over 70,000 people. Historically, the opening ceremonies have been held in stadiums and other large venues, but there is a reason the Q was selected.

“Past Gay Games did not fill venues for the opening ceremonies,” said Nobbe. “Particpants marched into arenas that weren’t even remotely filled. We talked a lot about it. It was not a snap decision. We looked at all the criteria and we decided that it would be really exciting for participants to march into a facility that is really loud and really filled, and that’s what we want.”

Another factor is Cleveland’s notoriously cantankerous weather.

“It takes away the chance of either rain or 90-something degree temperatures with high humidity,” he continued.

Some of the venues for specific sporting events were announced as well, including the Cleveland Convention Center for volleyball and badminton, Cleveland State University for swimming and basketball, Case Western Reserve University for water polo, wrestling and squash, and Lake Erie for open-water swimming.

In Akron, the marathon will take to city streets, while the University of Akron will host track and field events and Firestone Stadium will host softball.

Firestone Country Club’s golf course, which hosts the Bridgestone Invitational tournament, will be the venue for golfing events at the Gay Games. That was put forward in the original bid to get the Gay Games in northeast Ohio.

The Gay Games are also in the process of formalizing a partnership with the Cleveland LGBT Center.

“Right now, there’s nothing in writing in terms of a partnership with the LGBT Center. It’s more an acknowledgment that we want to work together and affirming that the center is the core of the LGBT community and the Gay Games are a platform for the community,” Nobbe said. “We want to do whatever the Games can do to be a catalyst to help the center continue to thrive and grow.”

“We will be sitting down with them and filling that out more specifically but right now it’s an acknowledgment of our desire to work closely together for the success of the games and the success of the center as it continues to evolve,” he continued.

As sponsors and partners fall into place, another key element to the success of the 2014 Gay Games will be procuring volunteers for one of the largest events to ever hit northeast Ohio.

“There’s two stages in the recruiting of volunteers. Right now the volunteers we’re looking for are to serve on committees on our board,” Nobbe noted. “The next phase is next year, when we start gathering the thousands of volunteers we need to run events and venues.”

Hundreds of people have expressed an interest so far, and they were referred to the website for the 2014 Gay Games, On there is an application for internships, as well as information for those seeking employment with the games and a link to registration for volunteers. The important thing right now, according to Nobbe, is to “see who want to volunteer and let them know what’s available.”




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