Hundreds of gay footballers and their fans, families and friends will converge on Philadelphia next year when the city hosts the Gay Bowl.
Philadelphia was selected by the National Gay Flag Football League to host the tournament Oct. 9-13, 2014. The event will be spearheaded by the Greater Philadelphia Gay Flag Football League, marking the first time the league, started in 2009, is hosting a tournament.
Wes Coulter, who chaired the bid committee and will now chair the host committee, said this will mark the first time Gay Bowl has been held on the East Coast since D.C. hosted in 2009.
Games will be held at Edgely Fields in Fairmount Park, with about 28 men’s teams and 10 women’s teams — several hundred athletes in total — expected to participate.
Coulter said the city’s location and layout make it an ideal venue for such a tournament.
“Philly is such a close vicinity, with the fields, the events and hotel so close to each other,” he said. “In some other cities, you have to travel 30-40 minutes to get to the fields, with no shuttles. And Philly is so accessible to so many other cities; teams from Boston, New York, D.C., Cleveland can all just drive in.”
GPFFL commissioner Justin Dolci said the time was right for the city to stage an event such as this.
“Our sports leagues are really up-and-coming and coming together as a group,” he said. “And the overall city is really going through a rebirth in terms of food, arts and culture. We have a pretty cool LGBT community here, and I think the national organization saw what our city’s about and what our league’s about.”
Coulter said the league expects several hundred supporters to attend with the teams. The Sheraton Philadelphia Downtown Hotel will serve as host hotel.
Games will be held during OUTFest weekend, and Coulter said the league is hoping to present the winning teams on stage at the event.
The league is also going to work to garner support and participation from the Eagles and other local professional teams. If the Birds agree, it would mark the first time an NFL team has participated in Gay Bowl.
The group will unveil the logo for the event at this weekend’s Kentucky Derby party.
The tournament won’t come without its challenges — including the approximately $96,000 price tag that the local league is responsible for covering.
Coulter said sponsorships will cover much of the costs, but the league also plans to host a number of fundraisers.
However, he added, it won’t hit up its own members for too much fundraising.
“We’re trying not to involve league members too much in fundraising because we still have to keep the league afloat for two seasons a year,” he said. “We don’t want to make our members feel like they have to give a lot of money for this. A lot are going to want to be part of this and volunteer but we’re going to approach it carefully because we want to make sure we don’t harm out local league. We’re proceeding with caution.”
The host committee is enlisting experts in the fields of marketing and other areas, some of whom are not league members, to assist in planning.
While the league itself has grown to about 150 members in the past four years, Coulter added that the individual contributions of the league members and supporters will be essential in the planning process.
“Our league has grown tremendously but I feel like it’s not even so much numbers, but knowledge that has made us able to host this,” Coulter said. “We have a solid structure, with a board and a core group of people who have experience in many different areas.”
Dolci added that the tournament’s success will depend upon a diverse group of supporters.
“We’re going to be getting a whole group of people together to work on this,” he said. “So, LGBT or straight, we’re going to be working to get a lot of different people to buy into this. It’s like planning a convention — you need a lot of different entities to work together to make the event be the best that it can be.”