CONTACT:                Kim Skeltis, APR; (616) 419-8385;                            


Original Sports Tourism Industry Conference Attracts Hundreds of Industry Pros Including Event Owners;
Mary Free Bed Wheelchair & Adaptive Sports Receives Funds; Riverside Park Gets Spring Clean-Up

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich., March 22, 2016 – Nearly 1,000 sports industry professionals, from event owners to national governing bodies of Olympic sports, will descend upon DeVos Place in Grand Rapids April 3-7 for the 24th National Association of Sports Commissions (NASC) Sports Event Symposium. Not only will the annual conference put a spotlight on the region and the West Michigan Sports Commission’s track record in attracting sports events as it visits Michigan for the first time in its 24-year history, it also will leave a legacy to Mary Free Bed Wheelchair & Adaptive Sports and a positive impact on Riverside Park.

“The NASC Sports Event Symposium is an important event for Grand Rapids, as it brings sports events planners into town to experience who we are as a destination,” said Mike Guswiler, president of the West Michigan Sports Commission (WMSC). “This event is akin to a familiarization tour of our city with key decision-makers who may bring their sporting events and related economic impact here in the future.”

As the only member-based, nonprofit trade association for the $8.96 billion youth and amateur sports event industry, the NASC bills the Symposium as the original sports tourism industry conference. Held annually since 1992, the Symposium also features the NASC Sports Marketplace, the longest-running reverse tradeshow for the sports tourism market. The WMSC, Experience Grand Rapids and hospitality partners Amway Hotel Collection and DeVos Place Convention Center supplied the winning proposal to bring the conference to Grand Rapids after it was held in Milwaukee in 2015. The conference moves to Sacramento in 2017.

“Grand Rapids impressed us in the bid process with its first-class hospitality offerings, including superb lodging and dining options, a walkable and vibrant downtown plus excellent airport, combined with exceptional sports venues,” said Don Schumacher, executive director of the NASC. “We look forward to showcasing Grand Rapids and its sporting events community to our NASC members.”

The 24th NASC Sports Event Symposium is expected to draw close to 1,000 industry professionals to Grand Rapids for the five-day conference, including 200 event owners such as the AAU and national governing bodies of Olympic and Paralympic sports. The attendee list is comprised of sports commissions, chambers of commerce, destination marketing organizations, facilities/venues, parks and recreation departments, and other organizations that host sports events. Estimated economic impact for the conference is projected to be more than $1 million spent by NASC and its members over the five-day symposium, not including the residual multiplier effect of Grand Rapids hosting future sporting events resulting from increased awareness from the symposium.

NASC Sports Legacy Fund Benefits Mary Free Bed Wheelchair & Adaptive Sports

The NASC Sports Legacy Fund awards an annual grant and sports equipment donation to an organization in need in the host city of the NASC Symposium. The NASC Sports Legacy committee selected Mary Free Bed Wheelchair & Adaptive Sports and its wheelchair tennis program as the beneficiary since it fits the NASC’s criteria of donating to non-profits that provide individuals – particularly at-risk youth, veterans, or physically or intellectually disabled individuals – opportunities to participate in sport and encourage healthy lifestyles. Started 40 years ago with a tennis program, the Mary Free Bed Wheelchair & Adaptive Sports program serves 400 children and 300 adults through a variety of organized team sports, clinics and camps every year. 

All attendees of the 2016 NASC Symposium can make a monetary donation to the NASC Sports Legacy Fund benefitting Mary Free Bed when they register for the conference.  The NASC Sports Legacy Committee also organizes a silent auction and raffle to raise money for the fund at the NASC Symposium. Proceeds from the auction and raffle support both Mary Free Bed and the NASC Sports Legacy Fund endowment, and a check will be presented to Mary Free Bed during the closing session of the conference April 7.

“It is a great honor that Mary Free Bed Wheelchair & Adaptive Sports was chosen as the beneficiary of the NASC Sports Legacy Fund,” said Alicia Hass, sports coordinator at Mary Free Bed Wheelchair & Adaptive Sports. “There are thousands of individuals with disabilities in West Michigan who want to participate in a sport. They want to feel included, encouraged, empowered. That’s what we are here for. The support network from organizations like NASC and the West Michigan Sports Commission is how we continue to provide life-changing opportunities for children and adults with disabilities.”

The NASC Sports Legacy Fund has contributed more than $63,000 to programs in its conference host cities since 2009, including $20,000 in 2015 to the Running Rebels Community Organization in Milwaukee. The fund allows members of the sports tourism community to make a personal and lasting impact on sports initiatives.

NASC Sports Legacy Fund Community Service Project – Riverside Park

Another beneficiary of Grand Rapids hosting the NASC Symposium is Riverside Park in the Creston neighborhood. Symposium attendees are invited to join the Sports Legacy Committee in a morning community service project Monday, April 4 to prepare the park for spring use. Volunteers will assist in litter pick-up, mulching around trees, cleaning up playgrounds and building soccer goals.  In addition, the Sports Legacy Fund is donating a disc golf basket to assist the City of Grand Rapids Parks and Recreation Department with upgrading the park’s disc golf course. The community service project was launched as a new initiative at the 2015 NASC Symposium in Milwaukee and is continuing for its second year in Grand Rapids due to its success.

“We gain so much as a city in addition to visibility among this important sports planning audience – the Sports Legacy Fund donation to Mary Free Bed Wheelchair & Adaptive Sports and the personal gift of volunteer time to Riverside Park leaves a lasting impression and sports legacy in our community,” said Guswiler.

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About the West Michigan Sports Commission

The West Michigan Sports Commission, a non-profit 501 (c) (3), works to identify, secure and host a diverse level of youth and amateur sporting events to positively impact the economy and quality of life in the region. Since its inception in 2007, the WMSC has booked 489 sporting events and tournaments that attracted 650,000 athletes and visitors, generating $190 million in direct visitor spending. For more information, visit


About the National Association of Sports Commissions

As the only nonprofit 501 (c) (3) trade association for the sports tourism industry, the National Association of Sports Commissions (NASC) is the most trusted resource for sports commissions, convention and visitors bureaus (CVBs), and sports event owners. The NASC is committed to the success of more than 700 member organizations and 2,000 serious-minded, sports tourism professionals. It promises to deliver quality education, relevant industry research and ample networking opportunities to members - sports destinations, sports event owners, and vendors to the industry - and to protect the integrity of the sports tourism industry. For more information, visit

Media Contacts

West Michigan Sports Commission:

Katy Tigchelaar

Kim Skeltis, Blue Blaze PR

Meijer State Games of Michigan:

Eric Engelbarts, II

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