Millions of dollars would come to the area if a proposed sports complex is built on Ten Mile Road. According to Mike Guswiler, Executive Director of the West Michigan Sports Commission (WMSC), this area was identified in a study as being ideal for a sports complex.
“We really took a look at this and had a consultant come in and tell us what the best sports fields were… They said travel amateur and youth baseball and softball leagues would use the fields Thursday through Sunday,” he stated.
The WMSC is a three-year-old organization designed to promote economic opportunities for the area. They identified the site, in part, because it is county-owned.
On Thursday, June 11, the WMSC approached the Kent County Board of Commissioners asking if a long-term lease of the property could be arranged for one dollar a year.
Roger Morgan, Chairman of the Kent County Board of Commissioners, said their finance committee formed a sub-committee to look into the legalities of such a transaction.
“Because that land was purchased by ratepayer dollars, there may be some stipulations as to its use,” he said. He added that he is entirely in support of the project.
City Manager Michael Young, who is on the Ten Mile Corridor Committee dedicated to controlling retail growth in the corridor, said this use would be accepted.
“We wouldn’t want any of the fast food or retail that can come with this kind of development, but we don’t oppose this use at all,” he said.
Guswiler said the study the WMSC is following shows that 12 fields and a championship field would be ideal. It would cost 5.6 million to build, not including any land cost.
A donor was identified who would offer a fund-matching gift of part of the amount. That offer is tentatively on hold, however, given the state of the state economy.
“We are not a development organization, we are in a position to lead the discussion on this project,” said Guswiler.
He said economic growth through increased hotel/motel revenue is a part of the goal in creating a project like this, but not the whole purpose.
“Our studies show that people will travel within 40 miles of this complex for shopping, dining and other reasons,” said Guswiler. “It wouldn’t only benefit the businesses in downtown Rockford, it would benefit anyone in the greater Rockford area. It’s not just an economic opportunity, it’s also a quality of life opportunity.”
Morgan said legal issues should be answered by this fall. If financing came in immediately, the complex could be ready for play by 2011.
“We are lucky in this area to have many wonderful philanthropists,” Guswiler stated. The financing would be a gift, since the complex itself would not be a money-maker. “The economic growth would be through visitors coming to the area for sports tourism.” Guswiler said their study figures show 50 million in hotel/motel revenue alone in ten years.