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Sunday, 03 August 2014 22:00

Local LPGA tournament stop to bolster West Michigan’s sports credentials

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The Meijer LPGA Classic presented by Kraft will be held Aug. 4-10 at Blythefield Country Club in Belmont. The event is being positioned as an opportunity to help expose West Michigan’s capabilities to host a major sporting event. “We don’t have the reputation yet. Something like (the LPGA tournament) that puts us on the map and that is televised certainly helps,” said Mike Guswiler, president of the West Michigan Sports Commission. Meijer used its sponsor exemptions to help Lindsey McPherson of Michigan State University and Grace Choi of the University of Michigan get into the tournament. The Meijer LPGA Classic presented by Kraft will be held Aug. 4-10 at Blythefield Country Club in Belmont. The event is being positioned as an opportunity to help expose West Michigan’s capabilities to host a major sporting event. “We don’t have the reputation yet. Something like (the LPGA tournament) that puts us on the map and that is televised certainly helps,” said Mike Guswiler, president of the West Michigan Sports Commission. Meijer used its sponsor exemptions to help Lindsey McPherson of Michigan State University and Grace Choi of the University of Michigan get into the tournament. COURTESY PHOTO

Mega-retailer Meijer leveraged its relationship with the LPGA to bring the world’s best female golfers to West Michigan this month.

To some, the deal stands to make the region a more attractive venue for sports all across the spectrum.

The Meijer LPGA Classic Presented by Kraft will take over the Blythefield Country Club in Belmont on Aug. 4-10 for the tour’s return to Michigan for the first time since 2000, when it played the Oldsmobile Classic in East Lansing.

While the event is certainly good news for local professional golf fans, it’s also great news for the West Michigan Sports Commission, said President Mike Guswiler. As an organization tasked with selling West Michigan as a viable and welcoming venue for youth and amateur sports, an event like the Meijer LPGA Classic is a glowing line on the area’s résumé, emphasizing its ability to host large-scale events.

“Selling (West Michigan) outside of the area and nationally can be a challenge,” Guswiler said. “We don’t have the reputation yet. Something like (the LPGA tournament) that puts us on the map and that is televised certainly helps. Once we get people here, they’re usually amazed and pleasantly surprised.”

The tournament will be televised on Aug. 7-10 via The Golf Channel, which is available to roughly 82 million households throughout the country and also accessible in Canada and sporadically in other countries.

Grand Rapids’ reputation was already strong enough for the Sports Commission to attract the USA Table Tennis U.S. Open in July, which held its tournament at DeVos Place. The city will also host U.S. Rowing’s Masters National Championships on Aug. 14-17, featuring 1,200 rowers from across the country.

All these events earn the region exposure and add to the economy, Guswiler said.

Since the West Michigan Sports Commission has a vested interest in the LPGA tournament’s success, Guswiler and his team readily offered to assist Meijer and event organizer Octagon Global Events.

The WMSC’s primary role with the Meijer LPGA Classic is to promote it via its existing network channels. Guswiler said that the WMSC was involved with an early meeting with Meijer and Octagon to address the need for hotels, which is significant considering the volume of golfers, caddies, media, sponsors and fans who will be coming to town for the event.

“(Meijer and Octagon) handle the logistics,” Guswiler said. “Ourselves and ExperienceGR have stepped up to do what we can to promote to the players, caddies and the fans coming in. This event will drive a lot of spectators. We should see a significant impact.”

According to Meijer community relations specialist Christina Fecher, the economic impact for an average LPGA event ranges between $5 million and $7 million. The Grand Rapids event will bring 144 golfers to town.

For comparison, the Lloyd D. Levenson Institute of Gaming, Hospitality & Tourism at The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey released a detailed look at the economic impact of 2013’s ShopRite LPGA Classic in Galloway, N.J., near Atlantic City.

The study showed the event attracted 62,555 participants, which included players, staff, spectators and business partners. Of those participants, 90.2 percent were not local and each participant accounted for $241.09 in direct spending.

The ShopRite LPGA Classic ultimately generated $19.2 million in new economic activity and $13.6 million in direct spending.

Above these potential economic impacts, Fecher emphasized the philanthropic effort that’s at the heart of the tournament.

“(The event) is so much more than a golf tournament,” she told MiBiz via e-mail. “It’s an opportunity for the entire community to come together to have fun while supporting a very important cause — feeding the hungry.”

The tournament will coincide with Meijer’s Simply Give program, which supports food banks throughout the Midwest. The program has generated $9 million for pantries since November 2008.

The tournament will mark the first time professional golf has swung through Grand Rapids since the Farmers Charity Classic, a Champion’s Tour event that was played at Egypt Valley Country Club in Ada and was discontinued in 2004.

Read 4603 times Last modified on Wednesday, 13 August 2014 10:43
Jayson Bussa

Staff writer/Web editor

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