I had planned to write a very different blog post this month – one sharing exciting news about not only closing one of our strongest years yet in youth/amateur sports tourism in West Michigan, but landing one of golf’s greatest icons for our June 23 Annual Event with Jack Nicklaus. Now the topic on everyone’s minds is the coronavirus and how it is impacting our daily lives. So we’ll save those good news items for another day.

Photo Credit: Nicklaus Companies

I want to share how the coronavirus (COVID-19) is impacting youth and amateur sports in West Michigan by answering some of your questions. First I’d like to impress that the health and safety of our athletes, teams, coaches, families and fans comes above everything else. And while we never want to see events get cancelled, we support these decisions without question to comply with CDC and state-issued guidelines to ensure the health and safety of everyone.

What is the immediate impact of the coronavirus on youth/amateur sports events?

All regional youth/amateur sports events scheduled in March have been cancelled to comply with Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s EXECUTIVE ORDER 2020-05 from March 13 through April 5 on the “Temporary prohibition on large assemblages and events,” impacting events of more than 250 people in a single shared space. Events such as MHSAA Gymnastics Finals, Griff's Sled Hockey Classic and Special Olympics Michigan State Basketball Tournament scheduled this month have been cancelled. In some cases, event managers have chosen to postpone, such as the Storm Classic Session 1 which is moving to April 18-19 (presuming the event ban isn’t extended). The USBC Intercollegiate Team & Singles Bowling Championship, slated for April 13, will be rescheduled to a later date yet to be determined by the United States Bowling Congress.

Do you anticipate more events being cancelled?

We foresee that more events may be cancelled in the future should additional recommendations come out of the Governor’s Office and/or CDC, which we will be following closely.

What is the long-term impact of the coronavirus?

Since we are in the early stages of this outbreak, it is difficult to estimate the overall impact until we get through the peak of this virus and reach some kind of containment. That being said, we will feel some impact since every event generates direct visitor spending in the community. However, our normal course of business is cyclical, with some years heavier with events than others. For example, 2019 was a record year with 99 events. This year is already by nature a lighter event year, so the impact of canceling some will not be felt as greatly.

Will the coronavirus impact the USA Masters Games?

We are hopeful that the USA Masters Games June 19-28 will not be negatively impacted by the coronavirus.

What does the WMSC do now?

Our organization constantly prospects for future business, bidding on and booking tournaments one to two years out. This won’t change despite the virus, and we continue to submit bid proposals to host events in the Grand Rapids area as far out as 2028. We have some exciting proposals pending right now, including NCAA Division II events in men’s and women’s golf, United States Bowling Congress Junior Gold Championships in 2022, and even the USA Weightlifting 2021 National Championships.

What should my organization do if we have an event on the calendar?

We will continue to assess the situation together to see if we can continue with the status quo or if a postponement is necessary. We also encourage you to explore creative solutions where possible, such as Gazelle Girl, which transitioned its April 19 event into a virtual experience.

How can I find out the status of sports events in West Michigan?

Consult the Events page of our website regularly for updates on events, which we will post as we receive them. You should also check the website and/or Facebook page of the event.

Will this impact the long-term viability of youth/sports in West Michigan?

We have a resilient community, and we will get through this together. We need to focus first and foremost on the health and safety of all individuals, and the best way to do this is by containing and preventing the spread of the virus. In our 14th year, our organization is dedicated to attracting and hosting youth and amateur sports to improve our community economically and physically. We remain committed to this cause, and we know this difficult time will pass. For now, we remain steadfast in monitoring the situation so we can best advise our event partners, support their decisions, and continue to promote West Michigan to national and regional rights holders so they bring future events to West Michigan.

Is there anything we can do now to support youth/amateur sports?

Yes! Follow our website and attend an event when it is rescheduled. Sign up for Gazelle Girl’s virtual experience. Donate to a nonprofit that had to cancel its event such as Special Olympics Michigan or Mary Free Bed. Or buy a ticket to a future event that supports youth and amateur sports, such as our “Evening with Jack Nicklaus” fundraising event June 23.


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

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