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West Michigan Sports Commission Hosted Most Sporting Events and Athletes/Visitors plus Booked Most Hotel Nights in Single Year

18 May, 2020


The West Michigan Sports Commission (WMSC) hosted the most youth and amateur sporting events in a single year in its history with 99 events in 2019, attracting the most athletes and visitors in one year at 230,382, generating $54.3 million in estimated direct visitor spending and filling a record 50,245 hotel room nights. It also saw its best year yet for the five-year-old Art Van Sports Complex, hosting the most tournaments in a year and generating $6.1 million in estimated direct visitor spending.

The year was highlighted by a number of sporting events by national rights holders such as USA Hockey, USA BMX, USA Softball, USRowing and National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) – a first for many of them in West Michigan.

“Last year was especially strong for sports tourism in West Michigan,” said Mike Guswiler, president of the West Michigan Sports Commission. “We have built a solid reputation with our Art Van Sports Complex, we continue to strengthen relationships with national rights holders such as USA Softball, and we have great partnerships with our local collegiate sports facilities and programs. All of that led to an impactful 2019, which we hope will continue.”

The WMSC was founded in 2007 as an economic generator to harness some of the $11.5 billion national youth and amateur sports industry for the region. One of its key tenets is generating overnight stays from event visitors, which drives spending in area hotels, restaurants and other businesses. Since its inception, the WMSC has booked 833 sporting events and tournaments that attracted more than 1.4 million athletes and visitors, generating almost $400 million in direct visitor spending.

2019 Highlights

The West Michigan Sports Commission tracked the following highlights in 2019:

  • Hosting 99 sporting events attracting 230,382 athletes and visitors and $54.3 millionin estimated direct visitor spending while filling 50,245 hotel room nights. This represents a 12.5 percent increase from 2018 in events and 5 percent increase in visitor spending.
  • Attracting and hosting more national sportingevents, including hosting numerous national events for the first time in West Michigan – 2019 USA Hockey National Championships, NCAA 2019 Women’s DII Lacrosse Championships, 2019 USA BMX Great Lakes Nationals, USA Softball 2019 Men’s Open Eastern Fastpitch National Championship, and USA Softball 2019 Men's Slow Pitch Class D Northern Championship. It also brought back national tournaments like the US Rowing Masters National Championships, last hosted in Grand Rapids in 2014.
  • Generating a record $6.1 million in estimated visitor spending at the Art Van Sports Complex, hosting the most tournaments (22), teams (746), athletes (9,698) and spectators (24,245) in a single year since the complex’s first season in 2015. The 22 tournaments resulted in 6,407 room nights booked and a record $6.1 million in estimated direct visitor spending – an 85 percent increase from 2018 and the most spending generated in one year.
  • Generating $1.4 million in estimated direct visitor spending from the Meijer State Games of Michigan, with 62 sports between the Summer Games and Winter Games in 2019 that drew 10,441 participating athletes.
  • Winning bids for future national sports tournaments, booking return events with USA Softball for the 2021 Men's open East Fast Pitch and 2021 Men's Class D Slow Pitch, and with USA Hockey for the 2021 USA Hockey National Championships Youth Tier II 16U.
  • Moving into a dedicated office at 300 Ottawa Ave. NW after sharing space with Experience Grand Rapids since it was founded in 2007. The 2,500-square-foot office features open-concept, mobile workspaces for team collaboration plus space for visitors. Guests are greeted by a “turf” wall with jumbo screen featuring highlights from sports events in Grand Rapids, plus colorful wall graphics of athletes playing sports and the WMSC vision and mission.

The sports commission also remains committed to promoting youth and amateur sports in West Michigan through creating events. Already this year, the WMSC hosted Grand Rapids Rift ClashFeb. 7-9, its first esports tournament, featuring nine colleges (including two from out of state) and one high school competing in teams of five in the “League of Legends” online video game. The WMSC also is bringing back its West Michigan Corporate Challenge April 16-30, a multi-sport event forWest Michigan businesses to get active through friendly competition in which coworkers compete in a series of events to claim the Champions Trophy.

The WMSC also continues its reputation of hosting multisport, Olympic-style events like its successful flagship Meijer State Games of Michigan and the 2017 State Games of America by hosting the USA Masters Games June 19?28 –a first for Michigan. The third edition of the USA Masters Games, this multisport, Olympic-style event for athletes 21 and older will be held at venues across West Michigan in conjunction with the State Games of Michigan-Summer Games. The inaugural USA Masters Games was in Greensboro, N.C., in 2016, and the second was in 2017 in San Diego, where 2,000 athletes from nine countries and 38 states took part.

Finally, the WMSC remains committed to leading the conversation about sports infrastructure needs in West Michigan. The WMSC’s facility committee regularly examines the area’s sports venue needs and has taken the lead in identifying the feasibility of a multi-field sports complex concentrating on rectangle field sports.                                                            

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.

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