Grand Rapids hosting lacrosse invitational
Although summer is weeks away, thousands of lacrosse fans are expected to swarm Grand Rapids this week.
In partnership with the West Michigan Sports Commission, or WMSC, Aquinas College will host the 2018 National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics, or NAIA, Men’s and Women’s Lacrosse National Invitational, starting on May 9 through May 12.
Student-athletes from as far away as Florida will be participating in the event.
The invitational is expected to have a positive impact on the local economy. There will be 16 teams, 450 athletes and an estimated 2,000 spectators who will gather at Aquinas’ lacrosse field, at 201 Woodward Lane SE, for the event.
About 880 hotel room nights will be booked, which will generate $579,361 in Grand Rapids and the surrounding area, according to the WMSC.
Dustin Wilke, the associate director of NAIA championships, said the organization was looking for a community that would embrace the sport and make the teams feel welcomed.
“We want our teams to have different things to do when they are not playing — entertainment, food and different things they can do to engage themselves in the community,” Wilke said.
Today, before the competition begins, Wilke said each lacrosse team will be visiting a local elementary school to share the NAIA's Champions of Character program, which is designed to demonstrate the five core values — integrity, respect, responsibility, sportsmanship and leadership — student-athletes keep "at the heart" when they're competing.
Mike Guswiler, president of the WMSC, said lacrosse is becoming one of the most recognizable sports.
“We have three (Michigan) schools that are participating both on the men’s and women's sides, so that makes it more exciting for our locals,” Guswiler said. “Lacrosse is really one of the fastest-growing sports, and we really feel like because of that, there is going to be a strong interest in our community, within our lacrosse clubs and certainly with the schools that are participating that we will be able to capture a good audience.”
“We care about creating a marketing opportunity for Aquinas College and for people to be on our campus, feel our campus and get a sense of who we are as a community,” Davidson said. “Maybe down the line, they will want to attend Aquinas College.”
The schools that will be competing on the women’s side are Benedictine College, University of the Cumberlands, Georgetown College, Indiana Institute of Technology, Keiser University, Siena Heights University, Lawrence Technological University and Savannah College of Art and Design.
The men’s bracket includes the University of the Cumberlands, Indiana Institute of Technology, Keiser University, Madonna University, Missouri Valley College, Siena Heights University, Reinhardt University and Savannah College of Art and Design.
Both the men’s and women’s teams will face an eight-team, single-elimination tournament over the course of four days. The women will begin playing on Wednesday at 10 a.m., and the men will begin on Thursday at 10 a.m.
The semifinals for both men’s and women’s teams will be on Friday. The women’s games will start at 10 a.m., and the men’s games will begin at 4 p.m.
The championship games will be held on Saturday. The women's game will be at 3:30 p.m., and the men’s game will be at 7 p.m.
People can purchase a daily pass for $10 or a pre-sale all-tournament pass for $25.
Tickets can be purchased online or at the venue.