Graduate Assisant 1970
Executive Director, Erik Widmark has been leading the organization for the past 13 years with a vision that is ever expanding.
A former National Football League player, administrator and coach, the Ahwatukee Foothills resident has nurtured the Grand Canyon State Games into the largest amateur sports festival of its kind in the country.
"It's a grass-roots opportunity for people to compete regardless of age or ability," Widmark said."I think there is a desire in all of us to play and compete and we keep offering them that chance."
But it wasn't the kind of position the Games Executive Director was looking for when the pro personnel director was released from the Arizona Cardinals in January of 1994.
"The first person who called me after I was fired from the Cardinals was Jerry Colangelo," Widmark recalled."I wanted to be part of his baseball team, but he didn't have a team yet," Widmark said."He did say he had this little thing called the ,Grand Canyon State Games' he wanted me to take a look at because he was a sponsor."
It was more than a leap of faith.The games had only been around for two years but were $180,000 in debt and two months from closing the doors.
"I needed the work and I didn't want to leave Arizona," Widmark explained."I had three kids (two girls and a boy) going to Mountain Pointe at the time and after bouncing around the country as a player, coach and administrator I don't think they would have gone with me this time."
Widmark decided to run the Games like he ran other sports organizations.
"It's modeled after a NFL franchise because that's what I know and what I do best," he added.
The bulk of this year's Fulton Homes Grand Canyon State Summer Games will be held from June 20 though June 22 and include 27 sports spread out over 70 venues.Widmark expects the participation in the 34 events to exceed 7,000 athletes, or about the same as those who took part in the Winter Games that included 42 sports.
"We'll probably have more athletes than the Olympic Summer Games (Aug. 8 to 16 in China)," Widmark said.
Arizona athletes participating in the Summer and Winter Grand Canyon State Games don't have to worry about out-of-state ringers.Entrants are required to be state residents.
However, the Lori Piestewa Native American Games, which also falls under the Grand Canyon State Games banner and Widmark's direction, attracts 1,910 athletes from 69 tribes in 21 states and 119 cities.
"There is no off-season," Widmark said.