Meijer Sports Complex plans $11 million expansion as sports tourism exceeds pre-pandemic levels

PLAINFIELD TWP. — Eight years after the opening of the Meijer Sports Complex, the West Michigan Athletic Commission begins an $11 million capital campaign to add additional fields and facilities to its Rockford-area facility.

The WMSC launched its “Winning Streak” campaign this fall to expand the facility, which hosts various levels of baseball and softball. The campaign also comes as the venue’s contribution to the local sports tourism industry exceeds pre-pandemic levels.

“We see an opportunity,” said WMSC President Mike Guswiler of the expansion plan. “Both with the impact we’ve seen so far and post-pandemic, that pent-up demand really pushed us in 2022 beyond 2019’s numbers.”

Guswiler also sees an opportunity to use recently available federal and state funds to support the expansion. The WMSC submitted a request for $2 million of Kent County’s portion of funding for the American Rescue Plan Act, along with $1.5 million for the federal budget and $3.5 million in state funding. At a meeting earlier this month, seven of Kent County’s 18 commissioners rated the funding proposal as “important” or “high.”

Funding requests at the county, state, and federal levels could account for more than half of the $11 million goal, Guswiler noted.

The capital campaign, which will run through 2023 before construction begins in 2024, is seeking funding for a new championship softball field equipped with artificial turf, bleachers, lighting and a press box for youth, amateur and collegiate athletes. The campaign would also support three flexible fields for baseball and softball, 20 pickleball courts, resurfacing of a main field, a new playground area and 450 additional parking spaces.

Meanwhile, WMSC officials report that the 21 baseball and softball tournaments hosted at the Meijer Sports Complex from April through October this year generated estimated direct visitor spending of more than $8 million, a 44 percent increase from 2021 and an increase of 32 percent over 2019. The events brought 762 teams, 9,906 athletes and nearly 25,000 spectators who booked 5,524 hotel nights, according to the WMSC.

The Meijer Sports Complex currently includes eight baseball and softball fields, warm-up areas, concession and maintenance facilities, and parking for 400 vehicles. Funded by $7.5 million in private donations, the Meijer Sports Complex has generated a total of $52 million in direct visitor spending since opening. The complex has also been expanded to include an indoor archery range, a BMX bike track, and mountain bike and hiking trails.

The expansion would take place south of the existing complex and potentially host 200 additional teams annually and generate $1 million in additional annual visitor spending, according to WMSC officials.

Grand Rapids based ProgressiveAE Inc. provides design services for the extension.

Guswiler said an expansion of the original $7.5 million layout was always considered.

“In the eight years that we’ve been running this, we’ve done it sustainably through various revenue centers and built it back into the complex,” he said. “It’s also a common good. We just know it works and we want to increase that impact. We feel very comfortable with this campaign.”


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