Enthusiastic and direct, Howard Kelsey expounds on his passions within minutes of meeting, and one of his passions is the Puerto Vallarta International Sports Classic held every May that he founded 12 years ago. “When we began the event, it was the only competition of its kind, but now there are a lot of competitive sports events in Vallarta.” Nonetheless, it is the largest community sports event to have such a broad focus, with over 2,000 participants competing in basketball, soccer, tennis, aerobics, softball, spin-bike, mini-marathon and, this year for the first time, disc golf.
It first became apparent that Kelsey, a Vancouver native, was destined for a bigger court when he was chosen for Canada’s national basketball team right out of high school. During the following decade, the team competed in two Olympics, bringing home fourth in Los Angeles and the gold in the 1983 FISU World Championships. That era is still spoken of as the golden years of Canadian basketball.
“The Sports Classic started when former Olympic teammates continually asked me to start a family ‘fun in the sun’ basketball event. The same year Carlos Yerena invited me to do the same. That first year we played on a dirt court in the blistering heat, scrambling around Carlos O’Brian’s to fill the rosters for the games. Now there is a waiting list of 16 teams.”
His connection with Mexico brought Kelsey to a sharing of cultures, through the spoken word but also through action and teamwork. “I’ve learned this much about organization of an event like this: the simpler you keep the logistics and venue, the better.”
Based in Guadalajara with one foot in Vallarta, Kelsey has another passion. “Through my involvement with the sports event, I became involved in the movement for a convention center. Gemma (Garciarce of the Sheraton Buganvilias) and I were invited by the governments of Jalisco and Vallarta to develop this project, and we did. There are no ecological or economic impediments with the project. Our primary argument has always been “Why locate one of the most important landmarks anywhere other than in the most spectacular beachfront location available?”