Getting on our Game Face for 2014

Happy 2014! As I write this post, I can’t help but reflect on a few recent events that have already left a mark on a new year.  Heavy snow and record-low temperatures shuttered businesses and schools following the holidays. And in a sad blow to our sports community, a fire at Fifth-Third Ballpark destroyed multiple suites and collapsed part of the roof. But these two incidents also show us the resilience of Michiganders. We have all by now safely dug out from our snowy drifts at home, and we know that construction crews will rebuild the ballpark we have all come to know and love.  We know it mostly as the home of our beloved West Michigan Whitecaps, but this summer we’ll be ushering in the Opening Ceremonies of our fifth annual Meijer State Games of Michigan Summer Games at Fifth-Third Ballpark as we had the pleasure of doing in 2013 and 2011.


Maybe 2014 is a year about perseverance, even against the odds. At the West Michigan Sports Commission, we’ve got a number of sporting events that wouldn’t be possible without a lot of hard work and determination from not only our staff, but our community sponsors and our partners at local sports clubs who helped us create winning bid packages. Here are a few events that we are most excited about this year:


  • Winter Games (2/14-16)– Building on our four-year success streak of the Summer Games that have grown exponentially in sports and athletes since its inception, we’re adding the inaugural Winter Games to the Meijer State Games of Michigan Feb. 14-16. We estimate 2,000+ athletes from all corners of Michigan will come and represent 13 sports, ranging from indoor archery and BMX, to snowball softball and snowshoe racing, to alpine skiing and fatbike racing. There’s still time to register as a participant – or come enjoy the Games as a spectator, including attending our Opening Ceremonies Feb. 14 at 7 p.m.


  • WCHA Final Five Championship (3/21-22) – Come out to Van Andel Arena March 21-22 to watch the Final Five championship of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association, which includes Michigan’s own Ferris State Bulldogs, Lake Superior State Lakers, Michigan Tech Huskies and Northern Michigan Wildcats. Ticket packages for the three-game tournament are $95 and $50 and can be purchased at the Van Andel Arena and DeVos Place box offices, Ticketmaster or by phone at 800.745.3000. Single game tickets, if available, will go on sale March 10.


  • Special Olympics of MI – State Basketball Finals (3/21-22) - Approximately 531 athletes, and 168 coaches and chaperones participate in the State Basketball Finals each year, creating a ‘March Madness’ of their own. This tournament includes competition for Senior Male, Female and Skills athletes.  The host sponsor is the Grand Rapids Jaycees and will be held at various Rockford Public Schools.  Be sure to come out and be part of this great community event.


  • USA Table Tennis - US Open (6/29-7/6) – North America’s largest table tennis tournament will take place at DeVos Place July 1 through July 5 and attract both domestic and international athletes. We have the honor of hosting this prestigious tournament for the third time in Grand Rapids – a testament to the strength of our venues and thriving downtown!


  • USRowing Masters National Championships (8/14-17) – This exciting, multi-day event at Riverside Park on the Grand River is not just a feather in our cap, it’s a win for the state as Michigan’s first national rowing championship. And we have our dedicated friends at the Grand Rapids Rowing Association to thank for helping us assemble the winning bid as the Local Organizing Committee.


  • Art Van Sports Complex Grand Opening (Fall) – Possibly the most anticipated new baseball/softball venue to come to West Michigan (and the Midwest), the championship-caliber Art Van Sports Complex in Plainfield Township will open its doors to “play ball” this fall. Our construction partner Owen-Ames-Kimball is working hard to finish Phase I construction, which will feature eight baseball and softball fields in two quads, each with its own concession and restroom building; a 385-foot fenced Championship Field with seating for 1,000 in covered grandstands; a Miracle Field with a unique, rubber surface for children with disabilities; and parking for more than 400 vehicles.


Finally, mark your calendar for our Eighth Annual WMSC Luncheon May 2 featuring Kirk Cousins, Michigan State University standout and NFL quarterback for the Washington Redskins, as our guest speaker. Registration is open and tables are selling fast.


Of course this list barely scratches the surface of what is in store for 2014 in youth and amateur sports. Follow our regularly updated Events Calendar on our website, “Like” us on Facebook or give us a call at 616-233-3562 to learn how to get involved.


Here’s to an exciting new year of sports in West Michigan.



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

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