State Games of America to have big economic impact on W. MI

A still from a promotional video for the State Games of America in Grand Rapids in summer 2017.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich (WOOD) -– More than 12,000 athletes from around the world are expected to come to Grand Rapids as the city hosts the Meijer State Games of America for the first time.

The opening ceremony at Van Andel Arena isn’t until August, but organizers are excited to host the national event in West Michigan.

It’s also a big money maker for the area.

“Families are going to use this as a vacation,” said Mike Guswiler, president of the West Michigan Sports Commission. He expects as many as 30,000 people to attend the four-day event.

“We expect to double the economic impact that we’ve seen from our [state] summer games,” Guswiler added.

He said that number could be higher than $5 million.

Eric Engelbarts, the executive director for the Meijer State Games of Michigan, said 4,000 athletes competing are from outside the state.

Those athletes, traveling from about 30 states, previously won a medal at their respective Meijer State Summer Games competition which earned a spot at the biennial national event.

“This is their [athletes] big dream. This is their big win,” said Engelbarts. “As you [athletes] qualify as a swimmer in Texas or a figure skater in Massachusetts, you’re coming to Grand Rapids to compete in the national and we’re here to show them what we have to offer.”

The national competition will trump the annual state games in Michigan, in-state athletes of all ages and skill levels are able to compete

About 8,000 Michigan athletes are signed up, Englebarts said.

Van Andel Arena and DeVos Place are two main venues for the 2017 event, but the games will be spread out all around Kent County. A few activities, like beach volleyball, will be played at venues outside of the county.

The opening ceremony, which is set to feature national entertainment acts, will kick off the big summer games at the arena on Aug. 4.