© Xcel Energy Center

SAINT PAUL, Minn., June 27, 2011 – In just 50 days, the 2011 Visa Championships will begin in Saint Paul, Minn. To mark the milestone, USA Gymnastics and Xcel Energy Center are excited to unveil the official countdown clock and unfurl a 40-by-60-foot banner that will grace the southwest side of Xcel Energy Center to help build awareness and excitement for the four-day national gymnastics championships and its accompanying USA Gymnastics Congress and Trade Show that will be held at Xcel Energy Center, Roy Wilkins Auditorium and Saint Paul RiverCentre. Travelers and HealthPartners have agreed to be local sponsors, and 14 restaurants will be featured in this year’s Taste of the Visa Championships.

Get ready!
Xcel Energy Center’s outdoor marquees, located on Kellogg Boulevard and West Seventh Street, will feature a countdown clock to give passers-by the up-to-the minute count until the beginning the 2011 Visa Championships, which will feature the USA’s top gymnasts vying for national titles and berths on the U.S. National Team. In addition, a 40-by-60-foot banner featuring defending U.S. all-around champions Rebecca Bross and Jonathan Horton will decorate Xcel Energy Center through the conclusion of the Visa Championships.

This is the first of many decorative pieces – from street pole banners to window coverings – promoting the championships that will appear around downtown Saint Paul. This imagery is especially striking because it incorporates the artwork of four-time Olympic discus gold-medalist Al Oerter. Art of the Olympians, founded by the late Oerter’s wife Cathy, has allowed USA Gymnastics to use selected works from Oerter’s contemporary art collection as the backdrop for the event’s signage and look. This year’s campaign includes "8th Movement" and "The Red Chair." Additional banners and imagery will begin to appear in Saint Paul throughout the month of July.

Men’s and women’s gymnastics will be held at Xcel Energy Center, with rhythmic gymnastics staged at Roy Wilkins Auditorium. Tickets for the 2011 Visa Championships are on sale now at the Xcel Energy Center Box Office, Ticketmaster Ticket Centers, charge by phone at 800-745-3000 or online at www.ticketmaster.com. Group tickets are available by calling 651-312-3486.

Taste of the Visa Championships
Fourteen Saint Paul-area restaurants are participating in the 2011 Taste of the Visa Championships, a contest to determine the top gymnastics-themed healthy entrée. The special event is a joint effort between Visit Saint Paul, USA Gymnastics and St. Vincent Sports Performance, a national sponsor of USA Gymnastics, to promote healthy eating. Each restaurant will create a special, healthy entrée that will be featured during Visa Championships week. A celebrity panel of judges, led by legendary gymnastics coach Bela Karolyi, will sample each dish, and the winner will be announced on Aug. 20 during the Visa Fan Fest. The judges will critique the entrées for taste, presentation, nutritional value, creativity and "gymnastics tie-in," which means name, presentation, etc. The dishes for each restaurant, as well as the judges’ schedule, will be announced in early August.

"The Taste of the Visa Championships is an opportunity for the hospitality industry to really participate in the celebration of the event," said Steve Penny, president of USA Gymnastics, "and it emphasizes the importance of a well-balanced and healthy diet. I am looking forward to seeing what meals the restaurateurs dream up for their special menu items."

The participating restaurants are: American Burger Bar, Cork’s Irish Pub (Embassy Suites), Eagle Street, Great Waters, Headwaters Café (RiverCentre), Kincaid’s, Liffey Irish Pub, M St. Café (Saint Paul Hotel), Pazzaluna Urban Italian, Restaurant 11 (Crowne Plaza), Sakura, Senor Wong, St. Paul Grill (Saint Paul Hotel), and Tom Reid’s Hockey City Pub.

"We boast a diverse collection of fantastic restaurants in our membership base," said Karolyn Kirchgesler, president and CEO of Visit Saint Paul. "We’re proud that so many have stepped up to participate in the Taste of the Visa Championships and we look forward to showcasing these fine establishments to the many people who will be in town."

Travelers, HealthPartners become major local sponsors
The local organizing committee (LOC) for the 2011 Visa Championships is proud to announce that TravelersandHealthPartners Orthopedics and Sports Medicine will be local event partners for the Visa Championships.

HealthPartners Orthopedics and Sports Medicine is the official medical provider of the 2011 Visa Championships. The Minnesota-based health care provider will offer complete on-site medical support to competitors throughout the event. HealthPartners and Travelers will also be featured in local marketing and promotional efforts, prominently positioned at the competition venues and incorporated into special events and appearances.

"We are excited to partner with the Xcel Energy Center for this event," said Heather Cichanowski, MD, a HealthPartners Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine physician. "As the official medical providers of the Visa Championships, our goal is to help provide any medical support these incredible athletes may need as they pursue their dreams of athletic success."

"At Travelers we are very focused on academic achievement and supporting programs that help young people prepare for the work world by being successful in high school and college," said Andy Bessette, executive vice president and chief administrative officer at Travelers. "USA Gymnastics provides the opportunity for thousands of young people to gain an important set of skills that will help them succeed in the academic world by exposing them to global competition and we are proud to be a part of the Visa Championships in Saint Paul."


Background information

  • Art of the Olympians. Art of the Olympians is dedicated to demonstrating the very real relationship between art and sport to the general public. The athlete artists have the ability to express this because of their many years of well-directed training for sport and the transfer of this discipline to their art. The Art of the Olympians Center of Excellence celebrates the constant challenge to achieve greatness in physical, artistic, and educational endeavors. In recognition of founder Al Oerter’s long-standing commitment to the ancient Olympic ideals and his contribution to Olympic sport, the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) granted Art of the Olympians legal use of the word "Olympian," which is actually protected by an act of Congress. The Art of the Olympians Museum and the Al Oerter Center for Excellence are located in Fort Myers, Fla. For more information, call 239-332-5055.

  • Al Oerter. Considered one of the greatest modern Olympic competitors, Al Oerter was the first athlete to win four gold medals at four successive Olympiads and the only athlete to set four consecutive Olympic records. He won the discus gold medal in Melbourne (1956), Rome (1960), Tokyo (1964) and Mexico City (1968). Oerter retired after the 1968 Games to help raise his two daughters and continue his management career in the computer industry. He resumed training in 1976 at age 40 and, in May 1980, threw his best official throw ever, 227 feet 11 inches. This throw could have won the 1980 Olympic gold medal, but the United States did not participate in the Olympic Games in Moscow. Oerter worked in data processing management for almost 30 years and enjoyed his career in promotions and as a successful motivational speaker. A member of 18 Halls of Fame, he was the first athlete recipient of The Olympic Order, the highest award issued by the International Olympic Committee. Oerter was a successful abstract artist and founder of Art of the Olympians. His heroes were the abstract artists who broke new ground in the 1930s, ’40s, and ’50s. Oerter died in 2007.

  • Travelers. The Travelers Companies, Inc. (NYSE: TRV) is a leading property casualty insurer selling primarily through independent agents and brokers. The company’s diverse business lines offer its global customers a wide range of coverage in the auto, home and business settings. A component of the Dow Jones Industrial Average, Travelers has more than 30,000 employees and generated revenues of approximately $25 billion in 2010.

  • HealthPartners. Founded in 1957, the HealthPartners family of health care companies serves more than one million medical and dental health plan members nationwide. It is the largest consumer-governed, nonprofit health care organization in the nation, providing care, coverage, research and education to improve the health of members, patients and the community.

  • Visa Championships. The 2011 Visa Championships, USA Gymnastics’ national championships, features the country’s best gymnasts vying for national titles and spots on the U.S. National Team in men’s, women’s and rhythmic gymnastics. Men’s and women’s gymnastics will be held at Xcel Energy Center, Aug. 17-20, and rhythmic gymnastics will be at Roy Wilkins Auditorium Aug. 19-20. Tickets for the four-day event are on sale now, with individual session tickets, as well as multi- and all-session ticket packages. Tickets may be purchased at the Xcel Energy Center Box Office, Ticketmaster Ticket Centers, charge by phone at 800-745-3000, and online at www.ticketmaster.com. In recognition of Visa’s sponsorship of USA Gymnastics, we are proud to accept only Visa at the 2011 Visa Championships, along with cash. For ticket and event information, go to www.usagym.org/visa.

  • USA Gymnastics National Congress and Trade Show. The USA Gymnastics National Congress and Trade Show is held in conjunction with the Visa Championships and will be conducted next door at Saint Paul RiverCentre. The USA Gymnastics National Congress and Trade Show is the annual gathering of professional members that offers educational and business sessions, a large exhibitor’s hall and other business and educational opportunities.

  • Xcel Energy Center. Regarded as one of the finest arenas in the world, Xcel Energy Center is home to the NHL’s Minnesota Wild, the NLL’s Minnesota Swarm and a multitude of premier sports and entertainment events annually. The one-of-a-kind, multi-purpose facility is located in the heart of downtown Saint Paul, owned by the City of Saint Paul and managed by Saint Paul Arena Company, an affiliate of Minnesota Sports & Entertainment.

  • Saint Paul RiverCentre. Saint Paul RiverCentre is the city’s premier convention center that overlooks the bluffs of the Mississippi River. Featuring more than 250,000 square feet of versatile event space and flexible room configurations that include the Grand Ballroom and The Legendary Roy Wilkins Auditorium, Saint Paul RiverCentre is the preferred choice for hundreds of events each year including star-studded galas, trade shows and conventions.

  • Visit Saint Paul. The mission of Visit Saint Paul is to generate economic growth for Saint Paul by effectively marketing the RiverCentre campus, Saint Paul and the region as a preferred convention and tourism destination.