Select Grabs Tourney Sponsorship

    GRAND RAPIDS — Title sponsorship of the Grand Rapids Sports Hall of Fame Classic Basketball Tournament was for the first five years the exclusive realm of the biggest bank in town, the former Old Kent Bank, and last year, its successor, Fifth Third Bank.

    For the next four years Select Bank will have the distinction of title sponsor of the annual two-day event that heralds the start of the college basketball season for Aquinas, Hope and Calvin colleges and Cornerstone and Grand Valley State universities.

    The Grand Rapids Sports Hall of Fame established the tournament as a charity event in 1996 and continues to own and manage it.

    The Select Bank Hall of Fame Classic Basketball Tournament will be held Nov. 26 and Nov. 30 at the Van Andel Arena.

    This year it’s Calvin’s turn to sit it out, as only four of the five teams can participate in the tournament each year.

    “As a relatively new bank and as a small bank, we had been looking for an event to get involved with as a sponsor,” said Mark Kimball, president and CEO. “We were contacted by the Hall of Fame and they asked us if we would have any interest. We almost immediately said yes.

    “It’s a perfect fit. The connection between small local colleges and a small local bank just seems very natural to me.”

    Like all sponsorships, the key is to have the ability to write the sponsorship check, Kimball said.

    He declined to reveal what the sponsorship cost the bank, saying only that it represented a significant commitment for the bank in terms of the dollars and man-hours it will invest over the four-year sponsorship period.

    Every year, 100 percent of tournament proceeds go to the Grand Rapids Public School (GRPS) system to support the All City Elementary Athletic Program, a fifth and sixth grade basketball league that runs January through March.

    GRPS and the city’s recreation department jointly oversee the league, which plays on Saturdays at four Grand Rapids high schools and at the Paul I. Phillips Recreation Center.

    Grand Rapids Sports Hall of Fame gives GRPS $25,000 a year for the “All City” kids program, said Ray McCahill, tournament director and trustee of the local Sports Hall of Fame.

    Ticket sales to the college basketball tournament typically don’t generate that much in proceeds, so proceeds from other events contribute to that annual donation, he said.

    Melvin Atkins, executive director of activities and services for GRPS, said each year participation in the “All City” program has gone up.

    Participation has grown from about 1,000 kids in the first year to an average of about 1,500 today. The number of girls participating in the fifth and sixth grade program has significantly increased, he noted.

    “It’s been a great program for us,” Atkins said. “Before the donation we had nothing available extracurricular after school for our elementary kids. This program has made it possible for our fifth and sixth graders to be involved in an organized activity.”

    McCahill had approached Atkins with the idea years ago and asked what Atkins considered to be the school system’s biggest need.

    “I told him at the time I thought it was the lack of an athletic program for our elementary kids,” Atkins recalled. “We identified basketball as the sport to go with because of the number of kids that can participate in it.” 

    Kimball believes Select Bank is a good partner for the Sports Hall of Fame, for the schools and the colleges themselves.

    “We’re a local institution, we’re going to get involved and we’re going to help promote the event.

    “I think there are several synergies like that involved in trying to raise the attention level of the event that a sponsor can provide.”           

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