The biennial National Senior Games have brought visitors from all 50 states to the Land of Enchantment for two weeks of competition and community building.
This year’s games are the largest in history, with 13,712 registered athletes spanning across 20 sporting events.The games have brought around 25,000 visitors to the city and local restaurants are feeding the demand.
According to Tania Armenta, CEO and director of Visit Albuquerque, the games are projected to bring in at least $17 million in direct spending, and over $30 million in economic impact.
One of the restaurants impacted is Frontier, a staple restaurant in Albuquerque best known for their breakfast dishes, green and red chile, flour tortillas and sweet rolls. Dorothy Rainosek, co-owner of the landmark restaurant, seems delighted to be giving visitors a taste of what the city has to offer.
“They’re gung-ho to try New Mexican food,” Rainosek said. “We have people from back east, and they don’t even know of green chile there. I say, ‘if you’re a little apprehensive about trying it, put it on the side,’ but most of them are gangbusters. They are enjoying it a lot.”
Another restaurant impacted by the games is the Range Café. Conveniently located between multiple hotels, the Range Café has become a lunch and dinner hotspot for traveling athletes. Erica Duran, the general manager there, is pleasantly surprised by the boost in business.
“We did expect a little bit of customers, but we didn’t expect as many as we got, so we’re very happy,” Duran said. “Father’s Day weekend is always a busy weekend, but we noticed that from Father’s Day last year to this year, our sales increased by $3,000. Even last night, my manager was supposed to leave at 6 p.m., but she didn’t leave until 8 p.m. because we were slammed.”
Even chain establishments are feeling the energy that the athletes have sent through the city. Much like the Frontier and the Range Café, the Starbucks across from the University of New Mexico did not know what to expect from the event.
According to barista Betsy Solis, the location has brought in more staff to meet the demand.
“With the extra employees we’ve been getting, there’s more of us on the floor to support the customer’s experience and also to support each other so that we don’t feel overwhelmed with the traffic we’ve been getting,” Solis said.
Solis said that the busy mornings pay off as she’s able to see the excitement of athletes when they order their lemonade and tea infused drinks. Their “Black Tea Lemonade” and “Passion Tango Tea Lemonade” are two of the drinks tailored for the athletes.
“We have drinks that we’ve curated just for the senior games,” Solis said. “The drinks are really refreshing, and they’re energizing, too. A lot of winners, like gold medalists, come by which is really cool, and for them we’ll give a free Grande sized drink. They deserve it.”
Among the different restaurants in the area, the passion to serve and support visitors is ubiquitous. According to Solis, when she is not busy crafting drinks or taking orders, hearing the athlete’s stories is as refreshing as the drinks she serves.
“Everyone that’s been coming in has been very inspirational to me,” Solis said. “I’ve been talking to them about what events they’re doing and about what they’re most passionate about."
Monday, June 24 is the last day of competition in this year’s Senior Games and local businesses are hopeful that they did their part in encouraging visitors to come back.
The National Senior Games are set to be hosted in Greater Fort Lauderdale, Florida in 2021.
Alyssa Martinez is a freelance reporter with the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @amart4447.