Play Ball! These two words were heard this evening – along with the National Anthem, a drumline, fireworks and other signs of celebration – as representatives from the West Michigan Sports Commission, Art Van Furniture and the “Everyone Wins” fundraising committee officially opened the new championship-caliber Art Van Sports Complex at 10 Mile Road in Plainfield Township in an invitation-only Grand Opening celebration event.
“Tonight, we celebrate seven years of planning a field of dreams that is now a reality – and it was possible because of the generosity of our West Michigan community,” said Mike Guswiler, President of the West Michigan Sports Commission (WMSC) who developed this complex as one of its signature projects.
Guswiler, along with WMSC Board Chairman Dick VanderMolen, Art Van Furniture Vice President of Merchandising David Van Elslander, and “Everyone Wins” Fundraising Co-Chair Arend (Don) Lubbers, spoke to a crowd of a couple hundred invited guests at the Grand Opening celebration that opened with tours of the complex, ballpark-themed food, the Grand Rapids Griffins drumline and other special activities. The formal program concluded with singing the National Anthem, throwing first pitches, skydiving by All Veteran Group Founder Mike Elliott, and shooting fireworks over Championship Field. Attendees also watched competitions on the various fields (including the Miracle Field) by local youth baseball and softball travelling teams and Game Day USA Baseball All-Stars.
“This evening is all about thanking those who made this day possible,” said Lubbers, who co-chaired the “Everyone Wins” campaign with Dan DeVos that raised nearly $7 million from the public and private sector to complete Phase 1 of the project. “But it’s also about letting you know that your investment will pay dividends back to the community as thousands of ball players and their parents come to our community and shop at our stores, eat in our restaurants and sleep in our hotels.”
David Van Elslander took the podium and shared why his family stepped forward with a lead gift that gave Art Van Furniture naming rights to the complex, “Art Van Furniture is very proud to be associated with something that teaches children about discipline and teamwork, creates wonderful memories for families and supports the local economy."
Complex to Serve as Economic Catalyst for West Michigan
The idea for the Art Van Sports Complex was conceived in 2007 when the West Michigan Sports Commission was first formed, supporting its mission of promoting the region as a premier venue for hosting youth and amateur sports to enhance the region’s economy and quality of life. Part of that mission includes assuring that the community has tournament-quality venues.
“With $8 billion spent annually on youth and amateur sports, it made sense to build a premier baseball/softball complex that would bring dollars to our region from travel teams looking for venues in the Midwest,” said Guswiler. “We built something unlike any complex in West Michigan – and when Phase 2 is complete, it will be one of only a few like it in the Midwest.”
The complex is estimated to attract more than 75 events and 135,000 visitors in its first five years of operation, with an economic impact for Kent County of approximately $20 million, including average annual hotel revenues of $1.5 million.
Ground was broken on the complex in October 2012, with architect firm Progressive AE and construction management firm Owen-Ames-Kimball Company completing Phase 1 less than two years later and ahead of schedule. The $7.5 million project cost for Phase 1 was raised through the “Everyone Wins” campaign co-chaired by Arend Lubbers and Dan DeVos as well as honorary chairs Richard DeVos and Peter Secchia, with fundraising supported exclusively through philanthropic donations.
Phase 1 includes the following features:
Eight baseball/softball fields grouped in two “quads,” each with a concession and restroom building; fields feature a pegged base system and flexible fencing to accommodate various sizes
Richard and Helen DeVos Foundation Championship Field - a 385-foot fenced field with seating for 1,000 in covered grandstands, plus a press box, concession area and restrooms
Donor Plaza with engraved bronze inlaid bats, baseballs and softballs to support the complex
Nate Hurwitz Miracle League Field with custom-designed, rubberized turf to accommodate wheelchairs, walkers and other assistance devices
Parking for more than 400 vehicles
Adjacent sporting facilities in Plainfield Township Premier Park, including:
West Michigan Archery Center with indoor, Olympic-style archery range
Rock City BMXMerrell Trails featuring 10-plus miles of mountain-biking trails
Multi-use soccer fields and a sledding hill
Tournament Calendar Filling Up; Fundraising Continues for Phase 2: While the Art Van Sports Complex may have just opened officially, complex manager Bryan Baar has been booking tournaments and events for the remainder of 2014 plus 2015. The Michigan State University’s men’s baseball team will play an intersquad game Sept. 13 at 1 p.m. that is free and open to the public. Other 2014 events include an All-Star Weekend baseball/softball tournament Aug. 2-3 presented by DeMarini Sports, Inc. in which approximately 250 youth will participate; and a USSSA Midwest Labor Day baseball tournament. Baar has already booked 23 of 27 playable weekends of 2015 with baseball and softball tournaments.
“If the 2015 tournament schedule is any indication, the Art Van Sports Complex is in high demand and already proving to be a success,” said Guswiler. “We hope to move full-steam ahead with construction of Phase 2 to keep up with the demand, as soon as we raise the necessary funds.”
The second phase of the project is planned after another $3.5 million is raised, which should include:
Four more baseball/softball fields with supporting concession and restroom buildin
Championship softball field with press boxWarm-up areas and picnic shelters
Commemorative bricks continue to be sold throughout Phase 2 and can be purchased by contacting the West Michigan Sports Commission at 616-233-3560.
The West Michigan Sports Commission, a non-profit 501 (c) (3), identifies, secures and hosts a diverse level of youth and amateur sporting events to positively impact the region’s economy and quality of life. Since its inception in 2007, the WMSC has booked 370 sporting events and tournaments attracting 540,000 athletes and visitors, generating more than $175 million in direct visitor spending. Visit westmisports.com for more information.
About the Art Van Sports Complex: A flagship project of the West Michigan Sports Commission, the Art Van Sports Complex is a championship-caliber baseball/softball complex near Rockford featuring eight baseball and softball fields, including the 385-foot fenced Richard and Helen DeVos Foundation Championship Field with covered grandstands to seat 1,000 spectators; Nate Hurwitz Miracle League Field for children with disabilities; warm-up areas, restrooms, concessions and maintenance building; and parking for more than 400 vehicles. Upon completion of Phase 2, this state-of-the-art facility will feature 12 fields – serving as the only one of its kind in West Michigan and one of only a few in the Midwest. Visit artvansportscomplex.com for more information.