Kids slapped plastic pucks, navigated a ropes course and ascended a climbing wall Saturday as the Tacoma Dome became a giant festival for 40 types of sports and activities.
“It’s wonderful,” Sue Garcia said as her son, Nito, played floor hockey after checking out scuba diving. “There’s some really great opportunities.”
Thousands of parents and their children flocked to the Dome for “Let’s Play! A Sports and Fitness Experience.” Tacoma South Sound Sports put on the event for the second year, with help from MetroParks Tacoma, the Children’s Museum of Tacoma and several other groups.
Nito Garcia, 8, said he liked learning about scuba diving, although he wasn’t able to join divers in a large water tank.
“I almost got to dive, but the water was cold and they didn’t have a suit that was small enough,” the Tacoma third-grader said. He’s hoping he’ll go scuba diving in a pool when the weather gets warmer.
One of the event’s goals is presenting youths with a wide range of competitive activities so they’ll try and stick with a sport, said Tim Waer, president and CEO of Tacoma South Sound Sports.
“We want to encourage them to get serious,” Waer said. His dream is that a future Olympian gets started in a sport at Let’s Play. Several Olympians and Paralympians took part in the event.
Another goal is to build Tacoma as a “premier amateur sports destination” by bringing sports clubs and the community together, Waer said.
By mid-afternoon, Waer estimated attendance already had surpassed his group’s goal of 5,000. Adults paid $7, but those 18 and younger got in free.
“It’s great that it’s free for kids,” said Mike Caldwell, a physical education teacher in Tacoma. And, he said, it’s great that kids get a chance to experience new things.
Let’s Play offered the challenge of something new along with the attraction of something familiar.
Caldwell played hockey with his 7-year-old twins, Manny and Mia. He teaches them the sport at Crescent Heights Elementary.
The range of activities on display in the Dome was dizzying. They included team handball, martial arts, sport stacking, wheelchair basketball, Zumba and roller derby, to name a few.
One of the longest lines was for a ropes course called “Rope-A-Phobia.” Kids wore safety harnesses as they crossed stations called the tightrope, swinging steps and the cargo net at the finish.
Olivia Alicea, 8, of Enumclaw, said the course was nerve-racking for a while.
“It was pretty scary when I went on the wood swings,” the second-grader said.
Monica Travis of Tacoma said she was glad to learn about more activities than just those offered at schools.
Her son, 12-year-old Michael, scaled the climbing wall twice and took on “Rope-A-Phobia.”
“I got a little scared on it, but it was fun at the end,” he said.