In less than three weeks, the cauldron will be lit, signifying the start of one of the largest sporting events in the state of Michigan.
The Meijer State Games of Michigan is an Olympic-style event that will bring athletes of all ages to compete in 39 sports at 50 venues in West Michigan.
The games are expected to contribute between $3.5 million to $4 million this year, which includes hotel stays and restaurant visits, rental cars, gasoline and more, according to Mike Guswiler, president of the West Michigan Sports Commission.
Guswiler said there will be more than 8,000 athletes from across the state’s 83 counties in West Michigan for the events that begin June 16 and continue into July and August.
“When we look at industry standards, conservatively, families who are traveling from out of town are spending $600-$800 over the course of a weekend,” Guswiler said. “With 8,000 (athletes) and their families, we know some of them are locals, so we don’t like to include those dollars because they can spend their money elsewhere doing something else.”
Three events, the girls lacrosse tournament, cricket and archery tag, begin June 16, but the opening ceremony doesn’t take place until 7:30 p.m. June 22 at East Kentwood High School.
Other sports include figure skating, tennis, beach volleyball, a 5K race, golf, baseball, fast-pitch softball, pickleball (a paddle sport that includes elements of badminton, table tennis and tennis), rowing, track and field, basketball, wrestling, swimming, BB gun, air rifle, air pistol, skateboarding, badminton, judo, rugby, wakeboarding, water skiing, weightlifting, tae kwon do, paintball, footgolf, boxing, field hockey, sporting clays, bowling, skeet, BMX, cycling, soccer, hockey, beach wrestling, pinball, ninja warrior, and men’s, women’s and coed softball.
The sporting events will be held at venues throughout West Michigan, including Grand Valley State University, Brewer Park, East Kentwood High School, Grand Rapids Rowing Association Boathouse, Grand Rapids Rifle and Pistol Club, Salvation Army Kroc Center and other locations.
Last summer, West Michigan hosted the State Games of America, along with the State Games of Michigan, where 12,000 athletes from across the country and Canada competed, according to Meijer State Games of Michigan Executive Director Eric Engelbarts.
Last year, the events had a combined economic impact of $10 million, Engelbarts said.
Since the Meijer State Games of Michigan began in 2010, Engelbarts said the number of events and visitors has grown each year. He also said the economic impact has been steady, hovering around the $3-million to $3.5-million mark. He credits the growth in awareness of the State Games to the local organizations in the area.
“We will look at event promoters and local associations that will use this as a fundraiser for their events,” Engelbarts said. “So, when we are running a lacrosse (tournament), we’ve partnered with Pure Advantage Lacrosse, which is a lacrosse club out in Caledonia, and they will run the lacrosse event as part of the games. So, when you look at each one of these events, we have a partner or an event promoter, someone who will help us put that on.”
Registration still is open for participants to compete in the events. First-, second- and third-place finishers in each sporting event will receive medals. Some of the winners will get a chance to compete in the State Games of America next year in Virginia.
“While we are out there pushing for the health and wellness and getting people out and moving around, it is really about the economic impact that happens,” Engelbarts said.