IMA Venue Spotlight

By Mike Gastineau - USA Games COrrespondent

In addition to hosting and housing the 4,000 athletes and coaches who arecoming to Seattle to compete in the 2018 USA Special Olympics Games, the University of Washington will also play host to several events at the Intramural Activities Building (or IMA).

The volleyball competition will be held in the IMA and will give competitors and fans alike the chance to see one of the largest collegiate intramural facilities in the west.

"When we remodeled the facility in 2003 we doubled the size," said Gary Leonard, Senior Director of Facilities and Operations for UW Recreation. "We have over 260,000 square feet with a variety of activity areas and everything you could imagine in a private gym multiplied several times."

Volleyball will be played in one of five gyms in the building. The gym is normally set up to accommodate three volleyball courts but for the 2018 Games the plan is to use two of the courts with the middle court serving as an area for bleachers, team benches, and official scoring tables.

Flag football will be contested in a picturesque setting on a turf field outside the IMA. Leonard said the sports commissioners and technical delegates for flag football were impressed by the fields which are located right next to Lake Washington. Tennis competitors will use the University of Washington's beautiful Bill Quillian Tennis Stadium. The stadium features seven courts with seating for 600 fans. Those fans will not only have a great view of the action, but beyond the stadium they'll be able to see the Cascade Mountains. In addition to the 600 permanent seats on the west side of the stadium, bleachers behind each court offer fans a closer view of the action.

Speaking of fans, there are likely to be many of them. Leonard said the IMA willremain open during the 2018 Games which will allow the several thousand people who use the facility each day to interact with the Special Olympics athletes who will be competing.

"We host several sports camps each summer but we've never hosted something on this scale. This is a unique endeavor on a grand scale and a great chance to highlight what the University of Washington is all about. Whenwe were asked to be a part of it, our response was 'of course! When do we get started?'"