Let the games begin to grow

August 19, 2011
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The second Meijer State Games of Michigan drew an even larger crowd than the highly touted and anticipated inaugural event. The most recent games, which featured youth and amateur athletes who competed in 24 sports, also topped the initial event for the estimated economic impact it brought into the county during the last weekend of June.

The West Michigan Sports Commission, which initiated the event, is two-for-two with the games, giving rise to a fresh addition to the area’s blooming hospitality industry.

It’s difficult, if not impossible, to pinpoint the exact economic impact from an event. Estimating is the best that can be done, and there are tried-and-true formulas that are used in the industry.

“The formula that we use is a pretty conservative formula. It is a template that the National Association of Sports Commissions has adopted and also the Destination Marketing Association International, which is kind of CVB-driven. This is a watered-down version because you can take in other variables. But this formula takes into account the estimated number of visitors,” said Mike Guswiler, WMSC executive director.

To arrive at the number of visitors, Guswiler said the formula calls for multiplying the number of athletes who participated in the games by 2.5 — each athlete’s estimated traveling party of family and friends who came along to watch. Four thousand athletes took part in the June games, making the traveling party total estimated at 10,000.

“Then you multiply that by an estimated out-of-town attendance and a per-capita, or per-person, spending, on average. Based on that, we truly feel that the economic impact from the 2011 games was $1.3 million. That was over three-and-a-half days.”

The per-capita spending average used by the WMSC was $125 per day, which includes lodging and all ancillary spending on meals, merchandise and attractions. (See box for related creative, but true, spending example from one visitor.)

“There were some sports that started on Thursday, but predominately, the majority of people … came on Friday … and certainly for the opening ceremonies, and stayed for the competition. Saturday, all the sports were running, and then Sunday it tapered off.”

The 4,000 participants in June was up from the first event’s 3,500, as the total number of sports offered grew to 24 from 15 the previous year. The 2011 estimated economic impact of $1.3 million was up from the previous year’s $750,000 estimate.

“It certainly is growth. It’s growth in many factors. It’s growth in participants, so obviously that brings in more people traveling with their families and athletes. We had more sports that were offered. And it’s growth in economic impact,” said Guswiler.

The WMSC already has begun working on next year’s games through the wrap-up of this year’s games. Vital to the 2012 version is talking with the 2011 sponsors and renewing their commitments, and possibly finding a few new sponsors. But there are others with which the commission will be touching base.

“We certainly get reaction and response from the sports tournament directors and we will be holding a meeting with them to get their viewpoints in building up toward next year. All of the sports will be on board again and we’ll probably be looking to add a few more, as well,” said Guswiler.

“The model that we use for these games is that each of the sport events are self-sufficient through the registration fees. But what the sponsors bring to the table is what this entire event is all about, and that is this Olympic-style festival. It’s the opening ceremonies, it’s the ancillary things that go into making this truly one event under the umbrella of the State Games of Michigan.”

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