New York State's best amateur athletes will compete in track and field, judo, and women's basketball at the University of Rochester when Monroe County hosts the 29th annual Empire State Games July 26 to 30. Times and details for all events can be found at

Six thousand athletes and more than 20,000 visitors are expected at 40 venues in the city and suburbs this week. "The support of universities and colleges is one of the biggest reasons we're having the events here," said Geff Yancey Jr., chair of the local organizing committee for the games. Financial and voluntary support is provided by 25 corporate, business, and community sponsors and more than 1,000 volunteers.

"For the most part, these games are their Olympics," said Frederick Smith, director of the Empire State Games. "In many cases, this is the pinnacle of their athletic careers—and we're proud to present that."

The University of Rochester and other area colleges will house 6,000 athletes. About 1,800 high school athletes in the scholastic division and open division athletes from Western New York, Long Island, and New York City will stay on the River Campus. A welcome event with free ice cream, entertainment, and a movie is open to Empire State visitors and the University community on Thursday, July 27.

An ice cream social with music by the Trinidad and Tobago Steel Band will be held from 8 to 9 p.m. on Dandelion Square (rain location: Douglass Dining Hall), followed by a showing of DodgeBall from 9 to 11 p.m. on the square (rain location: Strong Auditorium). The event is sponsored by the Office of College Admissions.

Master passes and day passes can be purchased at any game site that requires a ticket. Some events are free. Opening ceremonies are Wednesday, July 26, at PAETEC Park. Tickets are available at the box office for the 7:30 p.m. start.

The New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation administers the Empire State Games—the first of more than 40 states to offer such programs. More than 30,000 men and women of all ages across the state try out for the chance to be finalists in each year's scholastic, open, and master's division competitions in 28 sports. Some athletes who compete on the state level move on to national, international, Olympic, or professional competition.