Top 2019 Sports Moments

As we prepare for 2020, I’d like to take a moment to review 2019 – it was another great year for youth and amateur sports in West Michigan! Below is a rundown of our top 2019 sports moments at the West Michigan Sports Commission (WMSC).

1. Hosting a National Junior College Athletic Association basketball tourney (March). The WMSC submitted a winning bid with Grand Rapids Community College to host the NJCAA 2019 Region XII basketball tournament – a first for the region that will return in 2020. It also was a feather in our region’s cap that GRCC had its own student athletes competing on their home turf. 

2. Holding a USA Hockey national championship during USA Hockey’s 70th (April). Two area hockey rinks hosted the 640 best youth hockey athletes in America under 18 in the first USA Hockey national championship to visit West Michigan with the USA Hockey National Championships Youth Tier I – an honor especially during USA Hockey’s 70th anniversary year of crowning the nation's best in youth hockey. It also brought $2 million in economic impact from visitor spending and 3,000 hotel nights. (See related blog here.) 

3. Hosting two lacrosse tourneys (May).  As one of the most rapidly growing sports in America, lacrosse made a big splash in West Michigan in May with the 2019 NAIA Men’s and Women’s Lacrosse National Invitational at Aquinas College and the NCAA 2019 Women’s DII Lacrosse Championships at Grand Valley State University – the latter coming to West Michigan for the first time. (Read our related blog here.) 

4. Kirk Gibson and Alan Trammell speaking at Annual Luncheon (May). Attendees of our 13th Annual Luncheon were treated to a double-header of star power with Detroit Tiger Kirk Gibson introducing teammate and MLB Hall of Famer Alan Trammell who provided our keynote to a packed house.

5. Celebrating 10 years of State Games with 10 sports (June). Our signature event, the Meijer State Games of Michigan, celebrated its 10th anniversary with the 2019 Summer Games – and in its honor, I accepted a challenge from my team to compete in 10 sports. I think I’m still recovering! (See our blog about our 10th anniversary highlights.

6. Hosting the first national BMX event (August). We added a notch to our “sports firsts” by hosting the USA BMX Great Lakes Nationals  with our local BMX club, Rock City BMX– the first national BMX event for our area. The event drew 510 riders and more than 2,000 spectators from across the U.S. and Canada, filling 1,500 hotel room nights.

7. Snagging the US Rowing Masters Nationals again (August). Grand Rapids has proven its mettle as a rowing venue by hosting the USRowing Masters National Championships at Riverside Park where it was held in 2014. Drawing a record number of entries for a Masters rowing event with more than 2,000 athletes from 149 rowing clubs representing 33 states and six countries, the event brought the region $1.8 million and 5,000 spectators. 

8. Hosting two USA Softball tourneys plus winning Excellence Award (August). The Art Van Sports Complex had a full season capped off by two USA Softball tourneys that were a first for West Michigan – the Men’s Open Eastern Fastpitch National and Slow Pitch Class D Northern Championships. USA Softball was so impressed that it awarded Grand Rapids the James Farrell Award for Excellence. (Read our blog for details.) As further proof, we won bids to host the USA Softball Men’s Open East Fast Pitch and Class D Slow Pitch national tournaments in 2020 and 2021.

9. Opening registration for 2020 USA Masters Games (November). Registration opened for 16 sports of the 2020 USA Masters Games coming to Grand Rapids June 19-28, 2020. This multisport, Olympic-style event for athletes 21 and older features 24 sports, Opening and Closing Ceremonies, a Games Village, social activities and entertainment. Only the third edition since it started in 2016, the 2020 Masters Games will bring competitions to 27 venues across West Michigan in conjunction with the State Games of Michigan.

10. Moving into our own space (November). The WMSC has grown rapidly in our 10-plus years. Our community impact certainly has grown, from hosting 21 events generating $7 million in 2007, to hosting 99 events generating $53 million in 2019. Cumulatively, we have booked 833 events that attracted more than 1.4 million athletes and visitors, generating more than $396 million in direct visitor spending. We also grew as a nonprofit by moving to our own dedicated office space at 300 Ottawa Ave. NW, featuring  mobile work spaces, a turf wall, views of Calder Plaza, and a giant screen highlighting our region’s sports moments. Come visit us!

Thanks for being with us for another successful year of youth and amateur sports tourism in West Michigan – we look forward to what’s in store for 2020!

Happy Holidays!

Mike Guswiler
Mike is president of the West Michigan Sports Commission

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As we prepare for 2020, I’d like to take a moment to review 2019 – it was another great year for youth and amateur sports in West Michigan!