Butler County beat out Savannah, Ga., to host the 2024 Can-Am Police-Fire Games.
“They loved everything we showed them — from Slippery Rock all the way down to Cranberry,” said Jack Cohen, president of the Butler County Tourism & Convention Bureau. “There's things all over the county they want to do, including Moraine State Park.”
The Can-Am Police-Fire Games is a multisport, Olympic-style event featuring sports competitions such as cross-country races, cycling, ultimate Frisbee, ice hockey, power lifting and archery.
More than 1,000 firefighters, police officers, emergency medical providers, Homeland Security and Border Control employees, corrections officers and other emergency responders from the mid-Atlantic, Midwest and Canada will compete in the games.
Butler County will welcome athletes and spectators from July 15 to 21, 2024, in various venues throughout the county, according to Cohen.
The Can-Am Police-Fire Games started as the Northwest Police-Fire Games in 1977, according to its website.
Interest and participation in the event eventually grew so large that the group reorganized and renamed itself the Can-Am Police-Fire Games.
The Can-Am Board of directors toured Butler County in September. Their visit included tours of Moraine State Park, Slippery Rock University, Michelle Krill Field at Historic Pullman Park in Butler, and the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex in Cranberry Township.
“We can show off our community and let them see a great family community,” Cohen said. “I think it's a great thing that will let our community shine. I think that's bigger than any dollar impact.”
Cohen said while the event will have an impact on the county economically, and potentially encourage people to return to the county later, the true focus will be on the first responders and the impact they have on the community every day.
“First responders are proud of what they do, and I think our community is proud of them too,” he said.
Cohen traveled to Las Vegas over the weekend with county Commissioner Kevin Boozel, who is also a Slippery Rock volunteer firefighter and EMT; Butler county Sheriff Mike Slupe; and Brianna Kaiser, the tourism bureau's sports sales and event manager, to give a presentation on Butler County and its ability to host the games.
Boozel said the team was electric upon being awarded the contract.
“I got a little emotional because it's near and dear to me,” Boozel said. “The thing they kept bringing up over and over again in our exit interview was our shear passion for Butler County's first responders.”
Boozel said tourism put together a great package that showcased their marketing skills and flexibility in being able to adapt to requests from the games.
“There was an 11-month review process that Butler County tourism really knocked out of the park,” Cohen said.
Cohen tipped his hat to Slupe and Boozel for helping showcase the county's appreciation for first responders.
Cohen said their package also included a number of letters of recommendation, including many from local businesses, the Pittsburgh Bureau of Fire, and a certificate unanimously signed by the Pennsylvania State Senate, initiated by state Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, R-12th.
“It makes our community look strong, and it is,” he said.
Bill Merrylees, Can-Am CEO, said he was impressed by all of it.
“During the past 11 months of the selection process, they have been very organized and professional in their approach to host the games,” Merrylees said. “It was very evident to us that the entire community was behind having our event come to Butler County.”
Host city selections are made through a bid process up to five years in advance of a planned Games, according to the organization's website. Doing so allows a future host city the opportunity to experience at least two events in preparation for their own.
Cohen said Sheriff Slupe will lead a committee of first responders who will coordinate the games.