Full Sports Commission Roster Coming

April 16, 2007
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GRAND RAPIDS — The remaining seats on the 40-member West Michigan Sports Commission will be filled soon.

"We'll make the appointments in April. We'll go through (Kent County Commission Chairman) Roger Morgan, and he will make those announcements then," said Wayman Britt, commission vice chairman and assistant county administrator.

Morgan is expected to name the new members next week, most likely at the CountyCommission meeting on Thursday. The 29 individuals were selected last month by an appointment subcommittee from more than 100 applicants. 

Creating the appointment subcommittee was just one order of business that emerged from February's inaugural meeting of the commission's 11-member executive committee, chaired by County Commissioner Richard Vander Molen.

The executive committee also established subcommittees to hire an executive director, to set up financial reporting systems and to conduct inventory analysis. A request for proposals to perform the analysis has already been issued. The results of the study will be crucial to the commission, as it will help board members determine which sporting events they should try to draw to the region.

The county is picking up the tab for the analysis, which will provide a detailed listing of the sporting facilities in the region; an estimated $15,000 has been budgeted for it.

One sport certain to make the commission's list is hockey. The county hosted a pair of amateur ice hockey events in late March, and both brought out-of-towners here.

The Junior B National Championship was played at the SouthsideCommunityIceCenter in ByronCenter. The five-day tournament, which ran from March 29 to April 2, featured 11 out-of-state teams and one from Michigan's east side. Players, parents and team officials came here from Boston, St. Louis, El Paso, Phoenix and Dubuque, among other places. The Flint Junior Generals had the shortest trip to Southside.

The Crowne Plaza Hotel served as the tournament's headquarters and, along with the Grand Rapids Airport Hilton, offered the teams a special rate for their stay. The Hampton Inn in Wyoming and the Baymont Inn in Grand Rapids booked the overflow.

The second event was the two-day NCAA Division 1 Ice Hockey Midwest Regional played at Van Andel Arena March 23-24. MichiganStateUniversity, the University of Notre Dame, BostonUniversity and the University of Alabama at Huntsville made up the field that drew about 7,000 fans to the arena both nights.

"Seeing that both MichiganState and Notre Dame made it to the (championship) game on Saturday, our numbers were better than we thought they would be, at least going into it. And I know our per-caps for the double overtime game were pretty good with the extended stay of our guests," said Rich MacKeigan, SMG general manager of the arena.

MacKeigan said the event was worth just under $100,000 to the arena.

"I think we were down a little bit from last time but up considerably from two events ago," he said.

The arena hosted the NCAA Regional in 2003 and 2005 and is scheduled to do so again in 2009.

MacKeigan said the teams stayed at the downtown Courtyard by Marriott and at outlying hotels, because the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel was booked that weekend. Spreading lodging dollars throughout the county is a top priority for the sports commission.

The commission's first-year budget has been pegged at $475,000, and Britt said all the funding commitments have been met. In fact, many of the checks have already arrived.

"Until we hire our executive director and we start bidding on events, then we will need all of the dollars to be in our account. But we have deposited checks, and we have enough to run our business," said Britt.

"We want to do our Web site. We need to do the inventory analysis. And we need to do a logo. We have dollars available to do all that," he added.

KentCounty is giving the commission $200,000, the Convention and Visitors Bureau is giving $150,000, and the private sector is contributing $100,000. The Convention and Arena Authority is donating $25,000. The county, bureau and private sector have committed to fund the commission for five years, while CAA funding is annual.    

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