Sports Commission Taking Shape

April 30, 2007
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GRAND RAPIDS — Kent County Commission Vice Chairman Richard Vander Molen said the next step is to hire an executive director to lead the fledgling West Michigan Sports Commission, now that 25 of the remaining 29 board appointments were confirmed last week.

Vander Molen, who chairs the sports commission, said a national search for the panel’s top spot resulted in 30 applications. Of those 30, seven were interviewed, and three remain in the running for the post.

“It’s a critical, critical position. We hope to have someone here by early summer,” he said.

Kent County Commission Chairman Roger Morgan said once an executive director is in place, an events manager and an administrative assistant will be hired to complete the staff. Morgan said four of the board spots on the 40-member commission were purposely left open to give the executive director a chance to fill those seats.

Vander Molen’s announcement brought the commission’s total to 36, as Morgan named the 11 members of the WMSC Executive Committee in January. Those named last week will serve one-, two- or three-year terms.

Serving for three years are: James Czanko of Pioneer Construction; Jocelyn Dettloff of Disability Advocates of Kent County; Jeanne Englehart of the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce; David Hoogendorn of Ernst & Young; Dan Koorndyk of State Farm Insurance; and Herschel Turner of WEMCAT.

Serving for two years are: Marty Allen of the Gerald R. Ford Foundation; Jennifer Belka of the GR Sports and Recreation Department; Scott Bernecker of Merrill Lynch; Grandville Mayor James Buck; Darrin Duistermars of Holland Charter Township; David Grube of Cornerstone University; Jim Haskins of the Ottawa-Kent Athletic Conference; Justin Hickey of the GR Gazelle Rugby Club; Edwin Kornoelje of Metro Health; William Ryan of the Ryan Marketing Group; and Tanya Tillman, GR Sports Hall of Fame member.

Onboard for a year are: Bob Becker of the Grand Rapids Press; Larry Chesner of the Kent County Lodging Association; Chuck Cox of Northern Jet Management; Andrew DeVries of Calvin College; Jack Doles of WOOD-TV 8; David Doyle of  the GR Area Amateur Softball Association; Joey Josephs of Continental Communications; and Rich MacKeigan of the Convention and Arena Authority and SMG.

Local attorney Bill MacDonald, an executive committee member, headed a commission subcommittee that narrowed the more than 100 applicants to the 25 individuals named last week.

“Most importantly, we examined the profile of the individual as we made our recommendations,” said Assistant County Administrator Wayman Britt, also vice chairman of the sports commission.

Vander Molen said executives of Sports & Properties Inc. of Raleigh, N.C., are here this week to begin an inventory of West Michigan sports facilities. The analysis will help determine the types of events best suited to bring to the region in order to boost revenue to the area’s hospitality industry.

“They’re going to suggest some things that we may get into, based on our analysis,” he said.

Once the inventory is done, which Morgan said would take six months, board members will begin to work closely with the sales team at the Convention and Visitors Bureau to draw events to the city.

Bureau Vice President of Sales George Helmstead said his staff was already working to bring the national championship of the American Collegiate Hockey Association to the city. The ACHA represents club teams at the nation’s colleges and universities that don’t have an NCAA or NAIA hockey program. Calvin and Hope colleges and Davenport University are among the local schools that field club teams.

Helmstead said the title game of the ACHA tournament would be played in Van Andel Arena and would be part of a doubleheader with a Grand Rapids Griffins AHL game.

The sports commission’s Web site is expected to be operational by July 1. The board has a budget of $475,000 for its first year of operation. Kent County is contributing $200,000 to that budget, while a fundraising effort led by executive committee member Peter Secchia has raised nearly $140,000. The CVB and the CAA are also providing financial support to the commission.

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