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Sports Commission support worth its weight in gold
Mike Guswiler, executive director of the West Michigan Sports Commission, is likely to have a record number of papers and notes bearing the famed “happy face” signature of former ambassador Peter Secchia, one of the Sports Commission founders. Guswiler recently updated Kent County Commissioners on the returns on the county funding investment of $1 million over five years.
Even after the report, County Commissioner Stan Ponstein noted some constituents strongly believe the county should not, under any circumstances, contribute taxpayer funds to support any such agency.
Guswiler’s response was characteristically succinct: “We’ve got to play an integral role to build the future. We have to bring people in to help grow our businesses. We have to build our future.”
The Business Journal believes it’s important to enumerate the successes of an agency barely five years old and already attracting high-profile international events.
As reported this week on page 3, the commission has hosted 57 events to date this year, which have drawn 72,450 visitors who have spent $26 million. Just two years ago, WMSC put together 40 events that brought to the county 43,905 individuals who spent $13.5 million locally. Over its short life, the commission has booked and helped draw 250 sporting events that resulted in more than 280,000 athletes and spectators spending more than $80 million during their stays.
The Meijer State Games of Michigan has become the group’s signature event, this year featuring 31 sports patterned after the Summer Olympics and disbursed throughout the area at dozens of venues. The games drew 5,780 athletes from 72 counties and generated $2 million in spending from participants and their families.
Four Olympic Medalists came to Grand Rapids just prior to leaving for the Summer Olympics in London, showcasing the USA Table Tennis 2012 U.S. Open — an event that returned to Grand Rapids for a second year based on its previous success as recounted by tournament officials.
The July Transplant Games of America is now another signature event for the commission, and while successful, its greatest success is the story of organ donation and the showcase of capability by those who have benefitted.
And it’s not just the games to laud: The Sports Commission was honored in January for excellence by the SportsEvents Media Group.
The agency is $2 million shy of its $7 million capital campaign goal to fund a 12-field baseball and softball complex in northern Kent County. The commission’s vital fundraising luncheon Sept. 20, featuring Michigan State University Athletic Director Mark Hollis, is an appointment worth keeping, particularly for those who believe private support for the organization is as vital as its revenue return is to businesses in Kent County.