The West Michigan Sports Commission (WMSC) kicked off 2020 with a number of changes signaling the healthy growth of the Grand Rapids-based nonprofit, from hiring a new national sales manager with event management experience at IRONMAN, to moving into a dedicated office space at 300 Ottawa Ave. NW. The new year also brings approval of the slate of board officers and directors.
“We’re excited to round out our team to full strength again by adding someone with national sports event management experience who will help get West Michigan on bid lists for greater and more varied national events,” said Mike Guswiler, president of the West Michigan Sports Commission. “And our office move signals a new era for our organization, putting us in a prominent space in downtown Grand Rapids in a modern, open-office concept with a branded sports theme that will provide a warm welcome for our visitors.”
New National Sales Manager – Alyssa Updegrave - The WMSC hired Alyssa Updegrave as national sales manager, starting Jan. 13. She replaces Jamie Schlagel who held the position since 2014 and has returned to her hometown of North Branch, Minn., to be near family.
Updegrave spent the last five-plus years with IRONMAN at its Tampa and Nashville offices. She started as athletic services coordinator in which she executed all race day responsibilities, moving into the role of race director in 2017 where she managed both the IRONMAN 70.3 Augusta (home to North America's largest IRONMAN 70.3 race with 3,700 athletes) and the Rock ‘n’ Roll Nashville Marathon with 30,000 athletes. During her tenure, she travelled globally to offer operational support in executing IRONMAN marathon and triathlon series events. Prior to her work there, she was fitness programs director at the University of Central Florida in Orlando, planning fitness events ranging from 100 to 500 participants for the student body. She also worked as marketing-guest relations coordinator for IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., and as event operations intern in Tampa for both Amalie Arena (home to the National Hockey League’s Tampa Bay Lightning) and the 2012 Republican National Convention. A native of Tampa, she graduated from the University of Central Florida with a bachelor’s degree in event management and a minor in marketing and hospitality management. Updegrave is an avid runner, competing in one half marathon and three full marathon IRONMAN events.
“I am so excited to be a part of the West Michigan Sports Commission,” said Updegrave. “As a newcomer to Grand Rapids, I have already fallen in love with the culture, community and diversity of landscapes that work well with a magnitude of sporting events. I can’t wait to showcase Grand Rapids and West Michigan to both returning guests and new visitors.”
New WMSC Office - 300 Ottawa Ave. NW - The WMSC moved into a new, 2,500 square foot office at 300 Ottawa Ave. NW with views of Calder Plaza. This is the first time the WMSC has had its own dedicated office, sharing space with Experience Grand Rapids since it was founded in 2007. Designed and built by Progressive AE and Westside Construction Services, the office features open-concept, mobile work spaces to encourage team collaboration plus provides space for visitors to work. Guests are welcomed into the space by a “turf” wall with jumbo screen featuring highlights from national sports events hosted in Grand Rapids over the years, plus colorful wall graphics of athletes playing sports and the WMSC vision and mission in a color palette coordinating with the WMSC logo. Visitors also can have a go at the WMSC-branded shuffleboard table.
“We are grateful for all the years we were provided office space by our colleagues at Experience Grand Rapids, who helped make the creation of the WMSC possible 12 years ago through collections in the lodging tax by Experience Grand Rapids and through Kent County,” said Guswiler. “We are indebted to Experience Grand Rapids and the Kent County Board of Commissioners for helping us get started, and now we can stand on our own as a fully independent sports commission with a sports-themed office space to wow our sports prospects and clients.”
2020 Board Officer and Director Elections - The WMSC board of directors also approved its slate of 2020 officers and directors for terms starting Jan. 1, 2020, electing Emily Brieve, Kent County Commission, as secretary (through Dec. 31, 2020). She replaces Scott Bernecker, Merrill Lynch, whose board term expired Dec. 31. Bernecker was an inaugural board member, serving 2007 to 2019. Replacing Bernecker as new board director is K.V. Lacks, Lacks Enterprises (through Dec. 31, 2022). Other officers whose terms were renewed include Jim Horman, Progressive AE, as chair (through Dec. 31, 2022); Mike Donnelly, Amway Grand Plaza Hotel, as vice chair (through Dec. 31, 2021); Bob Partridge, Grand Rapids Community College (retired), as treasurer (through Dec. 31, 2020); and Deb Kay as immediate past chair. Board directors who renewed their three-year terms that expired Dec. 31, 2019 include Brenda Borkowski, Steelcase, Inc., and Diane Jones, Kent County Commission (both through Dec. 31, 2022).
Other board members completing the 15-member board include Nick Davidson, Aquinas College; Tim Gortsema, Grand Rapids Griffins; Dave Hoogendoorn, Ernst & Young, LLP; Jim Jarecki, West Michigan Whitecaps; Tom McCall, Meijer, Inc.; Doug Small, Experience Grand Rapids; Ed Wilson, Country Inn & Suites; and Peter Secchia, SIBSCO, LLC (emeritus and founding member).
About the West Michigan Sports Commission - The non-profit West Michigan Sports Commission (WMSC) identifies, secures and hosts 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 833 events attracting more than 1.4 million athletes and visitors, generating almost $400 million in direct visitor spending. Visit westmisports.com, Facebook.com/WestMichiganSportsCommission and @westmisports on Twitter and Instagram for more information.