Civic association taps crowdfunding for sports complex


The Sparta Area Recreation Association is in the middle of a crowdfunding campaign to help fund the $2.1-million Sparta Recreation Sports Complex. Photo via

A nonprofit is using a Michigan-based crowdfunding platform to help hit its fundraising goal out of the park for a roughly 35-acre youth sports complex.

The Michigan Economic Development Corp., or MEDC, and the Sparta Area Recreation Association announced this month a $100,000 Patronicity crowdfunding campaign to support the construction of the roughly $2.1-million Sparta Recreation Sports Complex on a 90-acre parcel of land in the village of Sparta. Construction on the project began this month.


Through the Public Spaces Community Places collaboration between the MEDC, Michigan Municipal League and Patronicity, the association launched the crowdfunding campaign to close the gap on the remaining funds needed for the complex.

The project has already gained pledged support from foundations, corporations and private gifts, totaling more than $1.6 million.

If the funding campaign reaches its $100,000 goal by June 25, the Sparta Recreation Sports Complex can receive a matching $100,000 grant from MEDC to support the continued development of the complex.

Elizabeth Morse, director of the Sparta Downtown Development Authority, said the crowdfunding campaign is a huge piece to pull in additional donors.

"It was a perfect opportunity, and it met our timeline precisely," Morse said. "We have 70 percent of the funds already to date, so it is not a project that is just starting. We will use the public momentum of $100,000 to close out the project. People already know about this project. They have known about it for years."

The sports complex

The first phase of construction on the Sparta Recreation Sports Complex will include a number of amenities: six baseball and softball fields; three t-ball fields, including one Challenger Little League field; three multi-use football and rugby fields, with several smaller practice fields; restrooms; a concession stand; a Veterans Memorial; and paved walking trails.

“The whole parcel is just less than 90 acres, but the developed section is about 35 acres,” Morse said. “We have additional plans for more trails and natural trails, but those are going to be future additions. It is in the northwest section of the village — beautiful location and connected directly to the commercial district.”

Community vision

The need for a centralized sports complex is based on the recent growth in youth sports programming in Sparta, the conditions of existing fields spread out across the village and lack of handicap accessibility, according to Morse.

“The current field spaces that we have in the Sparta area have been utilized for the last 50 years and have been built on properties that couldn’t be developed for housing for one reason or another,” Morse said. “We had such a growth in our youth sports programs, especially in the last five to 10 years. Parents are forcing kids to pick a sport based on what their sibling plays, based on drop off and pick up.”

The community-based project was originally included in a 2012 millage, which would use increased property taxes within the township to fund the centralized sports complex.

When the millage failed, the association and the Sparta Recreation Authority launched a private capital campaign through corporate, private and foundation requests to fund the complex.

“This has been in discussion for 20 years, and it has taken an exceptional crew of volunteers to take it from a discussion point to a reality,” Morse said.  

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