Ready For Kickoff

December 18, 2006
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GRAND RAPIDS — Now that KentCounty commissioners have agreed to allocate $1 million over the next five years to the fledgling West Michigan Sports Commission, the actual creation of the working group can begin.

The first quarter of the coming year will be vital to building a foundation for the board, which will be charged with finding more business for the hospitality industry. January will be a busy month for the commission's founders. They plan to make the rounds explaining the commission's purpose and benefits to service organizations in the region, begin their search for an executive director to lead the panel, and ask those interested in serving on the board to apply.

KentCounty is looking to partner with other public and private sector organizations throughout West Michigan to expand its share of the sports tourism market," said Roger Morgan, KentCounty chairman.

"The next step in this process is to appoint the 40-member board and the 11-member executive committee," he added.

The governing board will be appointed by the county in February. Twenty-eight members will come from the county, the Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Convention and Arena Authority, the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce, high school and college athletic directors, and amateur and professional sporting organizations. A dozen will be appointed as at-large members. Applications are available at the county's Web site, www.accesskent.com, and need to be returned to the commission's office by Jan. 4.

The paperwork to incorporate the commission as a nonprofit organization will be filed with the IRS next month, and the inventory analysis of the region's sporting facilities will get started in January. KentCounty is paying for that analysis, which is expected to cost $15,000 and highlight the type of events the commission should pursue.

The sports commission's first meeting is tentatively set for March.

The organization's 2007 operational budget has been pegged at $475,000. KentCounty will pick up $200,000 of that first-year tab from lodging-excise tax revenues. The CVB will contribute $150,000 and the CAA another $25,000. A private-sector fundraising effort will donate $100,000 to the budget. UniversalForest Products Chairman Peter Secchia is leading that campaign.

"Many in the private sector have expressed interest in supporting this commission and the county's firm commitment should help us reach our goals," said Secchia.

"The private sector will raise that much and more," said Commissioner Richard Vander Molen.

Commissioner Harold Mast didn't think that the county would have to fund the sports commission for five years. He thought three years was more likely.

"I think it will be self-sufficient in under five years," said Mast.

AssistantCounty Administrator Wayman Britt said he didn't have any hard numbers on how many jobs the commission would create or the economic impact the panel would have on the local economy. But Britt noted that other cities with sports commissions have seen income tax revenue rise by as much as 64 percent after a board became established.

The CVB said sporting events that have played here in the past six years have booked 58,000 room nights at hotels and motels in the county. But conventions held here just this year have booked nearly 54,000 room nights, according to the bureau.

A major goal of the sports commission will be to draw new events that will raise the annual number of room nights and increase revenue to the hospitality industry. The CVB estimated a successful operation could add 5,000 room nights each year and an additional $1 million annually to local coffers.

"It is envisioned that the West Michigan Sports Commission will create tangible benefits for West Michigan," said Morgan, "in terms of economic activity, quality of life and image enhancement."     

Play Dough

The 2007 budget for the West Michigan Sports Commission has been set at $475,000; here is how that money is expected to be spent.

Expense                               Amount
Salaries $185,000
Payroll taxes (9.75%) $18,038
Fringe benefits $55,500
Consultant/professional fees $50,000
Insurance $15,000
Travel $40,000
Marketing (Bid fees) $11,462
Total $475,000

Note: The Convention & Visitors Bureau is making an in-kind donation to the sports commission that will cover office space and everyday needs such as supplies and phone service. Those items are not listed as expenses in the budget.

Source: KentCounty, West Michigan Sports Commission Subcommittee Final Report, November 2006

 

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