Sports Commission Tees Off

June 23, 2006
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GRAND RAPIDS — Public officials, community leaders, hotel operators and restaurant owners will gather on Tuesday in the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel to discuss the possibility of creating a sports commission that could improve the area’s hospitality industry.

“The idea of a sports commission intrigues me, personally. I believe that we can attract some AAU teams and others to help out the occupancy rates in outlying KentCounty hotels, which helps us with the hotel-motel tax,” said Roger Morgan, county commission chairman and former GrandValleyStateUniversity football player.

Morgan has been part of a small group that has met a few times informally this spring about forming the commission. He told the Business Journal that Tuesday’s meeting will be the first official step in the process. But he emphasized that the meeting was a chance to share ideas and to learn what needs to be done.

“We’re just huddling, trying to design plays on how this would work. I don’t want you to think that we have an end-zone strategy at this point,” said Morgan.

A commission would hope to lure prominent events here like the NCAA Division I Hockey Quarterfinals that will be played at Van Andel Arena again next March and the National Golden Gloves Tournament that is coming to town in May of 2008.

“The booking of the Golden Gloves shows there is much more out there, which will help fill our hotels,” said Steve Wilson, president of the Convention and Visitors Bureau.

But the commission’s mission wouldn’t be limited to just drawing high-profile sporting events to the city, as Wilson said youth athletic tournaments are high on the list. Although the games may be lesser known, the events would draw the players’ family members here for two- and three-day stays.

“The parents, brothers and sisters all accompany the athletes to the event and there is a good fan base. We’ve done pretty well with the Michigan High School Athletic Association and we think we can go beyond the state of Michigan,” said Wilson

“We’re going to narrow the scope because there are a lot of sports out there and then kind of determine our strengths,” he added.

Wilson will address the gathering on Tuesday, a meeting that will also have National Association of Sports Commission President Don Shoemaker in attendance.

If a West Michigan sports commission is created, the CVB would likely be the agency to market it. The bureau has a sales staff in place and it has already made sports and hobby groups part of its target market for meetings at

DeVos Place

Funding for a commission would likely come from KentCounty, and possibly from the lodging excise tax that adds 5 percent to a guest’s bill at hotels and motels in the county.

“We’re going to be diligent. We’re going to give it a good vetting and then we’re going to decide,” said Morgan. “I think if the KentCounty board decides to allocate money [for it], then this would be controlled by the Kent County Commission.”   

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