Top 2017 Sports Moments

As 2017 comes to a close, it’s a perfect time to pause and look back on our year. And rather than give you a report card of our season, I thought I’d share my most memorable sports moments of 2017. Your list may look different, but that’s the beauty of a blog – I can share my opinion!

So without pause, here are my top 10 sports moments of 2017.

1. Attracting the USA Cycling Fat Bike National Championships for a two-year stint (January). Probably the most memorable part of this tournament last winter was the LACK of snow – still, more than 100 riders came from across the country to Indian Trails Golf Course to race in the 2017 USA Cycling Fat Bike National Championships Jan. 28 – only the second location since USA Cycling debuted the event in Utah in 2015. It returns in January at Cannonsburg Ski Area, and if this December snow is any indication, it will be an entirely different kind of event.

2. Featuring Mark Dantonio at the WMSC Annual Luncheon (May). One of the most accomplished head coaches in Michigan State University history, Head Football Coach Mark Dantonio spoke at the 11th Annual West Michigan Sports Commission Luncheon as he entered his 11th season in that role at MSU.

3. Hosting the State Games of America (August). Who can forget the energy and excitement across West Michigan Aug. 3-6 when we hosted the 2017 State Games of America – a first for the region and state?  The biennial event brought in 12,000 athletes (4,000 from out of state), 30,000 attendees, and $10 million in economic impact to West Michigan. And with 465 news stories and 27.5 million media impressions, the event put West Michigan on the map as a sports region.








4. Packing the Art Van Sports Complex with the International Softball Congress

(August). Not long after closing on a successful State Games of America, Grand Rapids hosted the 2017 International Softball Congress Men’s World Tournament – a first for West Michigan. The weeklong event featured 53 teams and 800 players from 15 countries and 22 states – with representation from as far as Japan, Australia and New Zealand. The event generated $2 million in economic impact, with athletes and families booking 2,500 hotel room nights.

5. Hosting the 2017 Professional Disc Golf Association (PDGA) Masters World Championships (August). That same week as the International Softball Congress, we hosted the Professional Disc Golf Association Masters World Championships, attracting 200 of the world’s best professional competitors 40 years and older from across the United States and Canada plus three other countries. An added feather in our cap? This was the first time the Masters played in their own tournament separate from the annual PDGA Professional Disc Golf World Championships.

6. Bringing the first national weightlifting competition to Grand Rapids (September). More than 600 of America’s top weightlifters ages 11 to 72, including 100 from Michigan, competed in the USA Weightlifting Nike American Series Open 3 – the final qualifying event to determine who represented the United States in the 2017 International Weightlifting Federation World Championships in November. USA Weightlifting had such a positive experience, as CEO Phil Andrews said in his blog post (USA Weightlifting wowed by GR, returning in 2018),  that it is returning for the National Youth Championships and Youth Olympic Games Trials in 2018 – the largest weightlifting youth event in the world. 

7. Saying goodbye to Helen DeVos (October). While not directly a sports item, the passing of local philanthropist Helen DeVos sent waves of sadness throughout Michigan. Helen was a strong supporter of children's health initiatives, including youth and amateur sports. She and her husband donated one of the lead gifts to the Art Van Sports Complex, and their generosity resulted in naming the Richard and Helen DeVos Foundation Championship Field in their (and her) honor.

8. Art Van Sports Complex additions (October - November). The Art Van Sports Complex continues to increase capacity to accommodate teams, players and families.  Following three years of successful tournaments, 1,904 teams, more than 60,000 spectators and an estimated $15 million in direct visitor spending, the complex is acting on our guests’ requests for added infrastructure plus our areas of need.  In 2018, we will feature a new picnic pavilion where several teams can picnic together at once.  A new storage facility will double our capacity to accommodate equipment necessary to maintain the complex at a high level, and plans are underway to add two batting cages for team warm-up.

9. Infrastructure discussions (September – present).  On the heels of the Destination Asset Study conducted by Grand Action and Experience Grand Rapids, the sports commission took the lead on a feasibility study to identify the potential for a multi-field sports complex with rectangular fields to support tournaments in soccer, lacrosse, field hockey, flag football, rugby, ultimate and more.  Chicago-based sport tourism and facility consultant group Hunden Strategic Partners is completing this study, with a final report expected in early 2018.

10. Celebrating 10 years of sports tourism (All year). All of 2017 was a top moment as our 10th year as a sports commission serving West Michigan. While our official birthday month was June, the entire year was a chance to reflect on our journey, how we’ve grown and how sports tourism plays an integral part in improving West Michigan’s economy and quality of life. See some of our anniversary highlights at #wmscturns10, including a video message from Grand Rapids Mayor Rosalynn Bliss.

It’s been a great year and wonderful decade of youth and amateur sports tourism in West Michigan – in large part because of our supportive community. Thanks for your support!

Happy Holidays,


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

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