America’s Walking Club has a new home in the heart of San Antonio.
Formerly known as the American Volkssport Association, America’s Walking Club has relocated its national headquarters to the King William neighborhood. The club, which still refers to itself as the AVA, was formerly headquartered in Universal City.
During an open house event Tuesday to introduce the community to the club’s new headquarters at 1008 South Alamo St., the AVA announced it will bring two major events to San Antonio in upcoming years, including an international walking event that will make its way to the U.S. for the first time.
First up is the annual National Walking Week, which this year takes place April 1-7, and includes scheduled walks in Schertz, on the River Walk, and near the Blue Star District.
In February 2023, San Antonio will host the biannual international walking festival known as the IVV Olympiad, marking the first time the event is held in the U.S.
The IVV Olympiad takes place every two years in the country of an IVV member association and has done so since 1989. AVA is a member of the IVV – the International Federation of Popular Sports, making the U.S. eligible to host an event.
Past cities that have hosted this event include Schömberg, Germany; Yamanaschi, Japan; Bibione, Italy; and most recently Aix-en-Provence, France. The 2021 event, which was moved to fall 2022 due to the coronavirus pandemic, will be held in Seoul, South Korea. The U.S. has never secured a bid to host the event until now.
“It is a great honor for the international community to award America’s Walking Club this opportunity to host the 2023 IVV Olympiad here in San Antonio,” Chairman of the AVA David Bonewitz said in a press release. “For the first time the Olympiad will be held in the Americas.”
Participants from as many as 42 nations will attend the three-day festival that usually attracts over 5,000 walkers. The festival will include a long-distance trek along San Antonio’s Mission Trails, and will have walks ranging from 5 kilometers to 42 kilometers. Participation will be open to the general public.
The olympiad is predicted to bring in an additional $5 million to San Antonio’s tourism industry in 2023, AVA Vice President Nancy Wittenberg said during a press conference Tuesday. Wittenberg said at least 700 walkers from all over the country are expected to participate.
The olympiad will also come on the heels of a smaller San Antonio walking festival co-hosted by the AVA and the International Marching League called the Texas Trail Roundup. This smaller event is also a three-day walking festival that will include walks throughout the region and will take place the week before.
The goal of having these two festivals back to back is to encourage visitors to spend a full week in San Antonio. Both events will take place during the San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo to allow visitors a chance to get a real Texas experience, AVA said in its press release.
The King William neighborhood was selected for the new headquarters since it already promotes a pedestrian-friendly lifestyle, said AVA CEO and Executive Director Henry Rosales after the press conference.
“We’ve selected this particular community because it reflects more of who we are and what we do,” Rosales told the San Antonio Report. “We opened up a satellite office on the West Side as well.”
The satellite office was placed on the West Side in an effort to encourage more residents of the area to get out and walk, Rosales said.
“San Antonio faces a lot of challenges around obesity, diabetes, and so we set up an office over there to also start working with that community, to get them all to walk more,” he said.
Having the AVA headquartered in San Antonio will hopefully be the start of a bigger walking movement in the city, said Councilman Roberto Treviño (D1), who was present at the press conference Tuesday. Treviño added he hopes the AVA will highlight San Antonio’s continued need for more sidewalks throughout the city.
“One of the most impactful things we can do for our city is to make it more safe for pedestrians,” Treviño said. “It’s the number one request in the entire city – sidewalks. It’s about that connectivity, that experience of being able to walk.”