Need something to do over spring break in West Michigan?
Go BIG or go home!
GO BIG OR GO HOME! That’s our motto at Grand Rapids Gymnastics. Six years ago, that’s how this all started. My business partner Mark Bowen and I decided that we should lead from the front and do what we encourage our athletes to do every day. Most dreams and ideas start from a drawing on a napkin. Mine started with a drawing on a kitchen counter. In 2010, we took our “what if’s” from the kitchen counter and made them into a reality.
That was the year we decided to approach SMG, manager of DeVos Place, to host our annual meet that previously was held at small community venue and attracted about 200 athletes. We thought DeVos Place would be a perfect location in the midst of our revitalized downtown to attract out-of-towners and more participants. We had to move the date from March to December (not your typical gymnastics season) because that was the only month DeVos Place had an opening.
On Dec. 3-5 2010, Gymnastics on the Grand was born (how could we not incorporate the new location of our meet on the Grand River?), as we held the first annual Gymnastics on the Grand Invitational at Devos Place. That first year in the competition’s new location brought 850 athletes to Grand Rapids and was held inside the ballrooms. As the registrations started coming in the following year, we realized we needed more space. With the help of the wonderful people at SMG, we were able to acquire Exhibit hall C as additional space for our invitational.
Fast forward to today, with the sixth annual Gymnastics on the Grand Invitational Dec. 4-6. Over the last six years, we have grown from 850 to 2,200 athletes. During the three-day competition, all athletes will compete in one of the four gyms located in the exhibit halls and ballrooms. In addition to the 2,200 athletes, we are proud to host 217 coaches, 56 teams from the Midwest and Canada, 400 volunteers, 20 Special Olympics gymnasts from West Michigan Special Olympics, and more than 8,000 spectators. Also in attendance this year will be 2004 Olympic all-around champion and member of the USA Gymnastics Hall of Fame, Carly Patterson; and 2012 Olympian and USA national team member Jake Dalton. We are excited to have both Olympians around to inspire the gymnasts to continue to work hard and dream big!
Another feather in our cap of six successful years is that the West Michigan Sports Commission recently added Gymnastics on the Grand as a qualifying event for the 2017 State Games of America. And Grand Rapids Gymnastics will oversee the gymnastics competition when the city hosts the State Games of America in August 2017.
None of these facts and words will ever truly capture what this event has and will continue to do for our athletes. You must experience Gymnastics on the Grand for yourself to understand why you will talk about this meet for the rest of the season, and that it will be an experience you will remember for the rest of your life.
Sports are good for our quality of life – they keep us healthy and teach us about teamwork.
I truly enjoy the social connections made possible by organized sports.