2014 - A Year of Firsts

Success in sports is measured in many ways. One marker of success, especially at the West Michigan Sports Commission, is the number of “firsts.” Our purpose is to promote and attract youth and amateur sporting events to the region to grow our local economy and improve our quality of life. One way to do that is to challenge ourselves to bring new events and tournaments across a variety of sports. And 2014 was a banner year – not only for the region, but for Michigan. Take a look at some of the highlights of our year:

Inaugural Meijer State Games of Michigan - Winter Games

Building on our successful annual Meijer State Games - Summer Games in June, we added an inaugural Winter Games last February featuring 12 sports plus Opening Ceremonies at Cannonsburg Ski and Ride Area. We’re already preparing for the 2015 Winter Games Feb. 20-22, 2015, expanding our lineup to 20 sports (including new events in Cross Country Skiing, Darts, Disc Golf, Pool, Rowing-Indoors, Shooting Sports, Weightlifting and Wheelchair Rugby). Registration is open for all events.


First WCHA Final Five event in Michigan

The Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) held its annual flagship event – the WCHA Final Five – in Michigan for the first time in March, attracting not only local hockey fans, but excited college students from Ferris State University, Minnesota State University, Bowling Green State University and University of Alaska Anchorage cheering on their teams.

First NCAA DII Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Michigan

In May, Grand Valley State University hosted the top runners from more than 100 universities in the country competing in the 2014 National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division II Men’s and Women’s Outdoor Track and Field Championships – a first for Michigan. The three-day meet attracted 750 athletes and 300 coaches – and it impressed officials enough that they’re bringing the tournament back to West Michigan May 21-23, 2015.

First baseball-softball complex of its kind in West Michigan

Last August, we opened the much-anticipated, championship-caliber Art Van Sports Complex in Plainfield Township amidst fanfare of fireworks, parachuters, tours and expo games in front of hundreds of attendees. The culmination of seven years of planning and less than two years of construction, the $7.5 million complex is unlike any in West Michigan, featuring eight baseball/softball fields in two quads, a 385-foot fenced Richard and Helen DeVos Foundation Championship Field with covered grandstands, a donor plaza, and the Nate Hurwitz Miracle League Field, to name a few highlights. And while the complex is already the first of its kind in West Michigan, it will be one of only a few like it in the Midwest after completion of Phase 2.


First national rowing championship in Michigan

In late summer on the banks of the Grand River, we hosted Michigan’s first national rowing event – the USRowing Masters National Championships. Attracting 1,500 rowers, 1,200 boats, 5,000 spectators and more than 140 national rowing clubs competing in 200 events, the Masters is USRowing’s largest national event. The Grand Rapids Rowing Association was a key part in Grand Rapids winning and hosting this exciting event that we hope to bring back in future years.



All of those accolades aside, it’s important to remember another marker of success in the sporting world – repeat wins.  And 2014 was a year for that as well with the USA Table Tennis - US Open in early July. We had the honor of hosting North America’s largest table tennis tournament for the third time in Grand Rapids – a testament to the strength of our venues and thriving downtown!

As we wind down 2014 and reflect on the highlights, I can’t help but be extremely proud of our region. We are a major contender for attracting national sporting events thanks to our enticing facilities, incredible sports partners such as university athletic departments and local clubs, and our welcoming community. The proof is in the numbers. In just seven years since our founding, the WMSC has booked 380 sporting events and tournaments attracting 550,000 athletes and visitors, generating more than $145 million in direct visitor spending.

And we all play a part. Thanks to everyone in the community for supporting our cause. And if you’re not already, get involved! Follow our news on Facebook, Twitter, this blog and our website. Want to do more? Volunteer at a local sporting event or make a donation.

Speaking of donations, it IS the holiday season – and what better present for someone who cares about positive growth of our community than a tax-deductible gift to the West Michigan Sports Commission? Want to donate to one of our signature programs? Consider buying a commemorative brick at the Art Van Sports Complex or donating to the Meijer State Games.

Have a healthy, happy and safe holiday season – talk to you in 2015!



Mike Guswiler
Mike is the President of the West Michigan Sports Commission.

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