Sak Steps To The Plate For Pros

March 5, 2004
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GRAND RAPIDS — Legislation that would add the logos of professional sports teams to specialty license plates has passed the House and is in the Senate Transportation Committee.

If passed by the Senate, the bill would allow the six professional sports teams in Detroit — the Red Wings, Pistons, Lions, Tigers, Shock and Fury — to raise money for their youth athletic programs from the sale and renewal of those license plates.

Local pro teams, however, were not included in the bill and neither were their youth charities. But State Rep. Michael Sak, D-Grand Rapids, plans to correct that this week.

Sak will introduce a bill in the House that would allow the logos of the Griffins, Rampage and Whitecaps to be put on the plates and then have the proceeds from the sales directed to the clubs' youth programs.

"I think it's just a good opportunity for the fans here in West Michigan to support their hometown teams and at the same time do something extremely beneficial for their youth athletic programs," said Sak last week.

Sak became motivated to write his bill after he watched the House back the one that put the Detroit teams on the plates. He plans to introduce his bill on Tuesday, March 9, and he feels that he has enough support to get the measure through the House.

"I believe I do," he said.

West Michigan Whitecaps Sales Manager Dan McCrath said his club was happy to hear of Sak's intentions.

"It's pretty important to us. We think it's a great piece as it gets the Whitecaps name out there and it helps our charity. A big part of our organization is being able to give back to the Inner City Youth Baseball Programs," said McCrath.

The Griffins and Rampage had a similar reaction to Sak's effort.

"We have a lot of charitable efforts and charities that we regularly work with," said Scott Gorsline, COO for DP Fox Sports & Entertainment, which owns a majority share of the Griffins and all of the Rampage.

The bill in the Senate committee calls for the Secretary of State to design, develop and issue a fundraising registration plate and a matching collector plate for each pro team. State fees from plate sales would be deposited into a special account created in the treasury, while proceeds from the sales would be sent to the youth sports programs named by the teams.

Also, a portion of the earnings would go to the U.S. Olympic Education Center.

The House passed the bill, HB 5139, by a 90-12 vote. The bill deleted a provision from the Motor Vehicle Code that limited the state to issuing only seven fundraising plates.

Rep. Tupac Hunter, a Wayne County Democrat, was the bill's major sponsor.

"It came from a desire to help youth, to assist in funding programs that give kids an opportunity to participate in sports programs," said Hunter.

Besides the vehicle registration fee and a $10 service fee, a $25 donation must accompany an application for an original fundraising plate. Renewing one costs the registration fee and a $10 donation. The donations go to the cause the plate represents.

The Senate estimated it would cost the state $15,000 to develop each new plate.

The state currently offers seven specialty fundraising license plates and 15 university fundraising plates. Sales revenue from the specialty plates totaled $1.3 million, and $1.1 million was generated from the university plates for the last fiscal year.

"With the difficult times we're experiencing in Lansing with the budget, this is something that we can do positively," said Sak of his bill. "It's not earth shaking in any capacity, but at the same time it allows our fans and our community to support our professional teams and send those dollars to youth athletic programs."

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