PLAINFIELD TWP. — Eight years after opening the Meijer Sports Complex, the West Michigan Sports Commission is embarking on an $11 million capital campaign to expand the Rockford area facility with more fields and amenities.
The WMSC this fall launched its “Winning Streak” campaign to add to the facility that 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,” WMSC President MIke Guswiler said of the expansion plan. “Both with the impact we’ve seen to date and coming out of the pandemic — that pent-up demand just really skyrocketed us in 2022 beyond 2019 numbers.”
As well, Guswiler sees an opportunity to leverage recently available federal and state funding to support the expansion. The WMSC submitted a request for $2 million of Kent County’s share of American Rescue Plan Act funding, as well as a $1.5 million federal budget earmark and a $3.5 million state appropriation. At a meeting earlier this month, seven of the 18 Kent County commissioners ranked the funding proposal as an “important” or “high” priority.
Funding requests at the county, state and federal levels could equate to more than half of the $11 million target, Guswiler noted.
The capital campaign, which will run through 2023 before construction starts in 2024, seeks funding for a new championship softball field equipped with synthetic turf, grandstands, 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, the 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 from April to October at the Meijer Sports Complex this year generated more than $8 million in estimated direct visitor spending, a 44-percent increase from 2021 and a 32-percent increase from 2019. The events brought in 762 teams, 9,906 athletes and nearly 25,000 spectators who booked 5,524 hotel room nights, according to the WMSC.
The Meijer Sports Complex currently includes eight baseball and softball fields, warm-up areas, concessions and maintenance facilities, and parking for 400 vehicles. Funded through $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 grown to include an indoor archery facility, a BMX biking track and mountain biking and hiking trails.
The expansion would take place to the south of the existing complex and potentially accommodate 200 more teams annually and bring in $1 million in additional annual visitor spending, according to WMSC officials.
Grand Rapids-based Progressive AE Inc. is providing design services for the expansion.
Guswiler said an expansion to the original $7.5 million layout was always envisioned.
“In our eight years of operating this, we’ve been doing it sustainably through different revenue centers and putting it back into the complex,” he said. “It’s a community asset as well. We just know it works and we want to grow that impact. We feel really good about this campaign.”