Sports complex scores $3M impact in inaugural season
The first season is complete at a baseball and softball complex in the area, and its economic impact has been recorded.
The final 2015 tournament at Art Van Sports Complex in Plainfield Township was held last weekend, capping a season that saw an estimated 7,614 participants and more than 20,000 spectators fill 7,658 hotel rooms.
The activity created $3 million in estimated direct spending, according to the nonprofit West Michigan Sports Commission, or WMSC.
“The success of our first season demonstrates the demand for a championship-caliber complex in our area,” said Mike Guswiler, president, WMSC. “In many cases during the season, if we had more hotel rooms and more fields, we would have filled them.”
WMSC said there were more out-of-state players than originally anticipated, with about 56 percent coming from outside the Mitten. The prediction was about a 50-50 split.
Illinois had the largest participation outside of Michigan’s 44 percent, making up 24 percent. Indiana players made up 14 percent, while Ohio and Wisconsin saw 5 percent and 4 percent.
Heading into the summer, WMSC estimated about 5,000 hotels would be booked during the season. The spike up to more than 7,000 is attributed to the higher than estimated out-of-state player count.
Large tournament operators, such as Illinois-based Game Day USA, were a reason out-of-state players were attracted, so WMSC said it will seek more similar tournaments next year.
The season was not full, either. Inclement weather in the opening month of the season and a slow back end of the season show potential can be higher.
“This was not only a successful first season, but it also was an important learning year to see what works, what needs tweaking and what types of events we need to attract to fill the Art Van Sports Complex 100 percent of playable weekends,” Guswiler said.
Next season has 22 tournaments booked, including two national Game Day USA tournaments. WMSC hopes for 24 tournaments next season and added league play.
With the successful first season, WMSC predicts to generate between $4 and $5 million in visitor spending and 8,000 hotel room nights next year. Those estimates could also rise with a few additional tournaments.
In 2017, the complex will host the International Softball Congress World Championship, which is expected to attract 65 teams.
WMSC will continue its fundraising push in hopes to begin the $3.5-million phase two of the Art Van Sports Complex, which includes four more fields, related concession stand and restroom building. The second phase would also include a championship softball field with press box and warm-up areas.