LGBT Sports in Columbus: Decades of Heritage
May 18, 2017 by Joe Vargo
Columbus prides itself on being a city that is both smart and open. And when visitors step foot in the city, they feel it immediately. Home to one of the largest Pride festivals in the Midwest that attracts more than 500,000 people and recipient of a perfect score by the Human Rights Campaign’s Municipal Equality Index (MEI), it’s clear it’s not just us that think Columbus is an open-minded and openhearted city.
In Columbus, we embody the open and smart mindset in everything we do. That’s why hosting sporting events that represent diversity and inclusiveness is important to our city. Let’s look back at some of the most memorable events we’ve had (or will have!) in Central Ohio:
North American Gay Amateur Athletic Association (NAGAAA) Gay Softball World Series (2010, 2015)
When you think of marquee LGBTQ events, this is one of the first that comes to mind, no matter what city you’re in. Columbus was lucky enough to host the NAGAAA Gay Softball World Series twice, and both years the event was held at Lou Berliner Sports Complex, the country’s largest softball and baseball complex. The 2015 tournament was the most attended in history, with 185 teams from 43 cities and over 2,500 athletes participating. However, the Gay Softball World Series is more than just economic impact. In 2015, Columbus embraced the event and the event embraced Columbus from the Opening Ceremony at the Columbus Commons to the Closing Block Party in the Short North Arts District, it was truly an event that became part of the community.
NAGVA Championships (1998, 2017)
Returning to Columbus for the first time in 20 years, the NAGVA Championships will take over Columbus on Memorial Day Weekend. Over 90 teams and 1,000 athletes, coaches, volunteers, and fans from the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico will come together at the Greater Columbus Convention Center for the volleyball tournament, which will celebrate its 35th anniversary. There event will also benefit the Kaleidoscope Youth Center and the Buckeye Region Anti-Violence Organization (BRAVO) organizations.
Gay and Lesbian Tennis Alliance (GLTA) Columbus Classic
This annual event brings great tennis talent to Columbus. Part of the GLTA World Tour, which strives to include members of the LGBTQ community together with tennis for competitive, yet friendly tournaments, the Columbus Classic is held at the Wickertree Tennis Center in the first weekend of May.
Labor of Love Volleyball Classic
Another NAGVA Tournament, the Labor of Love Classic, is held in Columbus annually each year. As its name suggests, it is held over Labor Day weekend and brings in teams from all over the country. Held at the Buckeye Volleyball Center, the event further proves that Columbus is not only a hub for LGBTQ events, but has earned its name of “The Volleyball Capital of the Midwest.”
Columbus Lesbian and Gay Softball Association (CLGSA) Bat-N-Rouge Tournament
CLGSA is a softball league open to LGBTQ players and their friends in the Columbus metropolitan area. The organization aims to strengthen the Columbus community by providing social connections, camaraderie, and athletic competition for players at all skill levels. The Bat-N-Rouge tournament, celebrating its 31st anniversary on June 19, will benefit multiple local LGBTQ charities in Columbus and feature special guests (including Columbus’ own Nina West!)
These are certainly not the only LGBTQ sporting events in Columbus! See one that is missing? Shoot us a comment with the information on the event.