Pitch made for public campaign

November 20, 2011
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Grand Rapids Griffins President and CEO Dan DeVos said last week that building a 12-field, baseball and softball complex is a good undertaking for the local economy.

“This project is first and foremost an economic engine for our community,” said DeVos, who owns DP Fox Ventures with his wife, Pamella. “Youth and amateur sports tourism generates about $6 billion in direct spending each year; youth baseball and softball are among the top five travel sports contributing to that figure. We want to capture a piece of that market.”

But DeVos also mentioned two other reasons individuals should get behind this project besides its economic return. “This is also about the love of sports and enhancing the quality of life here in West Michigan,” he said.

The West Michigan Sports Commission opened the public portion of its long-awaited campaign last week to build its field of hospitality dreams on 10 Mile Road in Plainfield Township near U.S. 131. The goal of the first-phase fundraising effort is $6 million; $4.3 million has already been raised through a 10-month-long private drive. The public portion is called the Everyone Wins campaign.

“We invite the community at large to join in this vital campaign. Gifts from people throughout West Michigan will make it possible to build a first-rate athletic complex that will bring families to our community for years to come,” said Arend (Don) Lubbers, former GVSU president and co-chairman of the fundraising campaign with DeVos.

WMSC Executive Director Mike Guswiler said phase-one construction would get underway next spring and will result in the building of eight baseball and softball fields, including a championship field and a “Miracle Field” for players with disabilities. The championship field will seat 1,000 spectators, and the complex will have concession stands, a playground, picnic shelters and parking for 800 vehicles.

Groundbreaking for the second stage of construction will be announced at a later date and will involve building the remaining four fields along with the corresponding amenities.

“Right now, there are only a handful of large baseball complexes in Michigan and none in West Michigan. We think teams will be excited to go to Grand Rapids,” said Chet Kapla, assistant state director for the Michigan Great Lakes Division of USSSA Baseball. The Great Lakes Division runs more than 200 tournaments in the state each season.

More information on the drive and the complex is available at everyonewinshere.org.

Lubbers said the project was the next logical step for the sports commission to take in its effort to draw more youth and amateur sporting events here. An economic projection shows the complex will generate $7.5 million in lodging revenue and $20 million overall over its first five years.

“We’ve visited other communities that have similar complexes,” Lubbers said, “and they all tell us the same thing —if you build it they will come.”

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