Editorial

Impact of community partnerships is undeniable

January 26, 2018
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Constant attention to new or renewal developments — the latest condo or retail project in the central city — often overshadows some of the projects that become map makers for the metro area. The Business Journal delves into the annual impact report from the West Michigan Sports Commission, showing its 2017 lineup of youth and annual sporting events fueled $61.1 million in the local economy. The partnerships the group forged to exceed its impact goals also are worthy of comment.

This week, the Business Journal will announce the top GRBJ Newsmakers in 16 categories and the Newsmaker of the Year. The sports commission is among them, and so, too, Frederik Meijer Gardens, celebrating its $75.2-million area economic impact; SMG entertainment venues that notched a record $13,641,987 in revenues for Van Andel Arena, DeVos Performance Hall and DeVos Place Convention Center. Add to that the Calder Cup-winning Grand Rapids Griffins, the Grand Rapids Drive (the NBA G League affiliate of the Detroit Pistons), ArtPrize and 14 colleges and universities whose students bear local monikers and help fuel the local economy.

Such assets have impact beyond any single project or manufacturing expansion in direct return to the community. So, too, the domino effect of their partnerships. 

The Business Journal report shows in 2017 the WMSC hosted 76 sporting events bringing 202,000 athletes and visitors to the area where they booked 43,961 hotel nights. Compare those numbers to the commission’s first events in 2007: it hosted 21 events and 33,900 athletes and visitors who booked 12,661 room nights.

WMSC President Mike Guswiler credits those increases to making partnerships, many of which expanded the games beyond “traditional” favorites and attracted more athletes to those sports for the state and nationwide exposure and challenge.

Former Grand Rapids Rowing coach Landon Bartley was among those who credited the WMSC for its “pivotal” role in allowing the rowing event in West Michigan to receive national recognition. He also noted assistance has been crucial in bids for regional and national events, such as the Mid-America Collegiate Rowing Association Championship Regatta, which Grand Rapids likely will host again in 2019, 2020 and 2021, and the USRowing Masters National Championships, for which Grand Rapids also is the top contender to host again in 2019.

Ann Vidro, co-director of Grand Rapids Triathlon, also cited WMSC for its growth. “They have helped us to make connections, reach out to young athletes and help to get the word out to the general public about our events.”

The impact of partnerships can’t be discounted.

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