Rice Park becomes 'the place' for fan activities for 2011 Visa Championships
posted on 07/13/2011

Rice Park was also home for fan activities at the 2006 Visa Championships
© Casey Gibson

SAINT PAUL, Minn., July 13, 2011 – For four days, Saint Paul's Rice Park will become the place for fan activities for the 2011 Visa Championships, Aug. 17-20, at Xcel Energy Center and Roy Wilkins Auditorium. Rice Park will play host to a variety of fun, including morning fitness, gymnastics demonstrations, Painting in the Park and the Visa Fan Fest. In addition, 14 downtown Saint Paul restaurants are participating in the Taste of the Visa Championships. The Visa Championships and its accompanying events will kick-off at 11:30 a.m. on Aug. 17 at Rice Park with a street renaming and the official start of Painting in the Park.

"Rice Park is going to be the fun place to be during the four days the Visa Championships are in Saint Paul," said Steve Penny, president of USA Gymnastics. "In addition to world-class competition in men's, women's and rhythmic gymnastics, the Visa Championships features a wide range of activities for fans and residents of the Twin Cities, from morning fitness to Painting in the Park to the popular Visa Fan Fest. There is something for everyone.

"By the time Aug. 17 rolls around, the residents and visitors of Saint Paul will know the Visa Championships are coming. Around town, we will have visually striking banners and signage for the event that feature the artwork of Olympic great Al Oerter as the background, the staff at the official event hotels will be wearing event-themed shirts, gymnastics-themed dishes will be featured at 14 downtown restaurants, and Rice Park will be transformed into 'Fan Central.'"

At Rice Park, people can start the day with a morning fitness session, watch gymnastics demonstrations and participate in Painting in the Park during the noon hour, and enjoy the Visa Fan Fest, complete with gymnastics demonstrations, visits from well-known gymnastics celebrities, interactive booths, food and music (post-competition on Aug. 19-20 and from 3:30-6:30 p.m. on Aug. 20). A complete schedule of fan activities will be available at www.usagym.org/visa.

Also, it will be easier than ever to follow the competition and fan events online. To help accomplish the goal of making this year's Visa Championships the greenest to date, schedules and general information for both fan and competition activities, start lists, live scoring and more will be available at www.usagym.org/visa, which is easily viewable on smart phones and other digital devices. In addition, this year's event program will be produced digitally and available to those both in and out of the arena to view and enjoy.

The following is a quick overview of the fan activities available during the Visa Championships.

  • Morning fitness. Downtown workers, fans and USA Gymnastics National Congress and Trade Show attendees will start the day off right, Thursday, Aug. 18, through Saturday, Aug. 20, with a 60-minute workout that includes exercises for strength and cardio conditioning and flexibility. Held at Rice Park, the 6:30 a.m. sessions will be hosted by Olympian John Macready and a HealthPartner's trainer each day.

  • Lunch-time activities. From Aug. 17-19 from 11 a.m-1 p.m., gymnastics demonstrations and Painting in the Park are scheduled during the lunch hour at Rice Park.

  • Painting in the Park. Gymnastics fans and citizens of the Twin Cities can help create an original painting that will become a part of the history of the 2011 Visa Championships. Interested individuals will have the opportunity to dip their hands and/or feet into paint and do handstands, cartwheels or walk across the canvas, developing a communal piece of art. Painting in the Park will be available to the public from 11 a.m.–1 p.m. on Aug. 17-19 and from 3:30-6:30 p.m. on Aug. 20. Those expected to participate include gymnasts competing in the event, local and gymnastics celebrities and dignitaries, gymnastics fans, aspiring gymnasts and residents of the Twin Cities area. The finished canvas will be featured during the final session of the Visa Championships on Aug. 20, and pieces of the canvas will be presented as special gifts to selected organizations and individuals affiliated with the event, as well as travel to events in 2012. Painting in the Park is presented by Art of the Olympians, founded by Cathy Oerter and her late husband, Al, who was a four-time Olympic discus champion. Works of Al Oerter provide the background in the signage and visual imagery for the 2011 Visa Championships.

  • Taste of the Visa Championships. The Taste of the Visa Championships features 14 Saint Paul-area restaurants that have created a special, healthy entrée that will be judged during Visa Championships week. The goal is to produce a tasty, but nutritionally sound meal that will dazzle a panel of judges led by legendary gymnastics coach Bela Karolyi. The restaurants are American Burger Bar, Cork's Irish Pub (Embassy Suites), Eagle Street Grille, Great Waters Brewing Company, 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. Karolyi will officially announce the contest winner during the Visa Fan Fest at Rice Park on Saturday, Aug. 20. The Taste of the Visa Championships is a joint effort between Visit Saint Paul, USA Gymnastics and St. Vincent Sports Performance to promote healthy eating in conjunction with the 2011 Visa Championships, USA Gymnastics' national championships that feature men's, women's and rhythmic gymnastics.

  • USA Gymnastics Fitness Zone. Kids can have fun and gain knowledge about the importance of fitness through the interactive USA Gymnastics Fitness Zone. The zone features activities in building strength, flexibility and cardiovascular exercise, along with teaching a handstand in recognition of the Year of the Handstand (including a world record attempt for simultaneous handstands on National Gymnastics Day, Sept. 17, and as a possible fundraiser for Children's Miracle Network). The Fitness Zone will be featured on the concourse at Xcel Energy Center and at the Visa Fan Fest on Saturday, Aug. 20.

  • Visa Fan Fest. Fans can gather for fun between the women's gymnastics sessions on Aug. 20 and post-competition on Aug. 19-20. Following the competition on Aug. 19-20 (Friday and Saturday nights), the Visa Fan Fest will be a great place to mingle and enjoy interviews, food, music, fun activities; and celebrate the great competition earlier in the evening. Rice Park will be the place to be after the chalk dust has settled in the arena. Also, on Aug. 20 at 3:30 p.m. at Rice Park, fans can enjoy music, autographs, food, Painting in the Park, the USA Gymnastics Fitness Zone and other fun activities, as well as buy merchandise, during the break between the junior and senior women's competition.

  • WGYM. Two-time Olympic gold-medalist Shannon Miller and 2007 U.S. all-around champion David Durante will host WGYM, the in-house radio broadcast for men's and women's gymnastics. WGYM provides running commentary on the competition, as well as fun facts about the sport and the competitors. Radios will be available at Xcel Energy Center.

  • Merchandise. Fans can purchase everything gymnastics from event-specific tees to the newest adidas leotards at both Xcel Energy Center and the Visa Fan Fest. USA Gymnastics is proud to accept only Visa.

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. NBC Sports and Universal Sports will broadcast and webcast the action from the men's and women's gymnastics competitions.

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. Tickets may be purchased at the Xcel Energy Center Box Office, Ticketmaster Ticket Centers, by phone at 800-745-3000, and online at www.ticketmaster.com. In recognition of Visa's long-time support, USA Gymnastics is proud to accept only Visa at the 2011 Visa Championships, along with cash. For ticket and event information, go to www.usagym.org/visa.

The USA Gymnastics National Congress and Trade Show, held at Saint Paul RiverCentre, is the annual gathering of professional members that offers educational and business sessions, a large exhibitor's hall and other business and educational opportunities.

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.

  • 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 long-time support, USA Gymnastics is 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.

  • USA Gymnastics. Based in Indianapolis, USA Gymnastics is the national governing body for gymnastics in the United States. Its mission is to encourage participation and the pursuit of excellence in the sport. Its disciplines include men's and women's artistic gymnastics, rhythmic gymnastics, trampoline and tumbling, acrobatic gymnastics and group gymnastics. For more information, log on to www.usagym.org.