Filling Out The Roster

January 29, 2007
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GRAND RAPIDS — The 11 members of the West Michigan Sports Commission Executive Committee will huddle for the first time in a few weeks when they get together in February to fill the remaining 29 positions on the commission.

After committee members round out the lineup, they’ll search for an executive director to lead the commission, develop a logo for the organization, and kick off the assets study that will identify the resources they can use to draw sporting events to the region.

The money for the effort, estimated at $475,000 for this year, is in place. Kent County, the driving force behind the creation of the commission, has pledged $200,000 in receipts from the lodging excise tax this year, and for the following four years, to the commission.

The Convention and Arena Authority pledged $25,000. The Convention and Visitors Bureau followed suit by donating $100,000 in cash to the first-year operation and $50,000 worth of in-kind support, as the commission will be housed at the bureau’s location.

“I’d like to thank (CVB President) Steve Wilson and (CVB board member) Kathleen Ponitz for their cooperation,” said Roger Morgan, county commission chairman.

A private-sector fund drive raised $120,000 for the commission’s initial year and $109,000 for years two and three, an effort headed by Universal Forest Products Chairman Emeritus Peter Secchia.

“I can’t thank Ambassador Secchia enough,” said Morgan.

Secchia, Ponitz and nine others were appointed to the executive committee by county commissioners. (See related story.) One of the nine is Dan DeVos. DeVos owns DP Fox Ventures LLC with his wife, Pamella, and the firm is majority owner of the Grand Rapids Griffins, an AHL franchise, and sole owner of the GR Rampage, an AFL franchise.

DeVos also teamed up with Second Story Properties President Sam Cummings to bring open-wheel auto racing to the streets of downtown for two consecutive summers in the late 1990s and is part owner of a Canadian major junior hockey team.

“I believe it’s another way for this community to grow, to bring new people into the community and to show off what West Michigan is about,” said DeVos as to why he volunteered for the commission.

In addition to extending the region’s visibility and boosting its economy, DeVos hopes the commission can entice residents to participate in the events that are lured here, either actively or as spectators.

Morgan told the Business Journal he believes DeVos will be a key player on the board because of his experience in the sports business.

“With all the contacts that we have, the people that we know, and all the activities that we’ve been involved with, hopefully we’ll be able to get out and open some doors. And be able to really present the opportunity that West Michigan offers to all levels and all sorts of sports because I think we offer something for everybody here,” said DeVos.

Morgan said more than 100 individuals applied for the commission’s 40 spots, a record number for a county-appointed board. He added that narrowing the applications to fill the executive committee’s 11 seats was a tough task.

“We went through the resumes that were submitted and this is my team,” he said.

An exact date for the executive committee’s inaugural meeting hadn’t been set as of last week, but it will take place in February. 

Key Players

The following 11 individuals were appointed by Kent County commissioners to the Executive Committee of the fledgling West Michigan Sports Commission last week.

Name Organization
Richard Vander Molen           Kent County Commission
Wayman Britt Kent County Administration
Dan DeVos DP Fox Ventures LLC
Deb Kay Community Advocate
Bill McDonald Worsfold Macfarlane McDonald
Kathleen Ponitz Progressive AE
Peter Secchia Universal Forest Products
Tim Selgo Grand Valley State University
Joseph Tomaselli Amway Grand Plaza Hotel
Rob VerHeulen City of Walker
Harold Voorhees Kent County Commission

Vander Molen will chair the committee, while Britt will serve as vice chairman. Ex-officio committee members are former University of Michigan Athletic Director Bill Martin, former GVSU president Arend Lubbers, and local businessman and former Detroit Tigers scout Bob Sullivan.

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