Sports commission serves as economic catalyst
WMSC announced March 4 it would expand with the debut of Winter Games throughout the metro area in February 2014. Further, it is expanding its successful Meijer State Games, adding five more sports to this summer’s lineup.
One of the 10 issues or projects cited as Newsmakers of the Year by the Business Journal in January, the economic impact of WMSC showed gains in 2012, with almost 5,800 athletes from 72 of the state’s 83 counties competing in more than 60 events in Kent County and a $26 million economic impact for all its sponsored events.
The commission also assisted in organization and management of the Transplant Games of America, held at Grand Valley State University, which drew 1,600 visitors from 40 states and had a $1.7 million economic impact.
The summer and winter boost to regional tourism and attendant businesses is well documented, but WMSC projects are creating new opportunities for businesses, whether they are commercial real estate, architecture and construction firms, physician services or retailers seeking to serve star athletes. The West Michigan Mountain Biking Alliance, among others, is becoming more involved, building out the riding trail systems. WMSC is now bidding for the U.S. Rowing Association to bring its event to Grand Rapids, as did the Mid-American Collegiate Rowing Championship last year.
Further, the group has earned favor from Gov. Rick Snyder for its programs, seen as a tonic for the state’s battle with childhood obesity. WMSC President Mike Guswiler noted during an editorial board meeting with the Business Journal, “The governor has embraced us,” adding that the commission is working as a partner with the 10 Michigan cities that are helping the state create additional athletic tourism.
Considerable stimulus is anticipated when the commission opens its 12-field baseball and softball complex for tournaments in 2015. The complex includes a rubber-surface Miracle Field for players with disabilities. Art Van Furniture donated $1.8 million toward its completion, which is still shy $700,000-$800,000 in the fundraising campaign, titled Everyone Wins. Studies suggest it will have an economic impact of more than $10 million in its first five years of operation.
The WMSC announcements this week create an even broader domino effect throughout the West Michigan region.