West Michigan Sports Commission hires manager, launches website

Fundraising Campaign Continues with Buy-a-Brick Campaign to Close Gap on

$7.4 Million Project to Attract Travelling Baseball and Softball Tournaments to West Michigan

 

The West Michigan Sports Commission (WMSC) is making some strategic game plays to bring its Art Van Sports Complex closer to reality with the hire of Bryan Baar as complex manager and the launch of a new website to serve as a hub for complex updates.

“This week marks a significant step forward with our progress on the much-anticipated Art Van Sports Complex,” said Mike Guswiler, President of the West Michigan Sports Commission. “Bryan Baar brings extensive experience in the travel baseball and softball industry and will put the complex on the map in creating and attracting top-notch travel tournaments that also will help grow West Michigan’s economy.”

In the newly created position of complex manager, Bryan Baar will manage operations of the championship-caliber Art Van Sports Complex on a contractual basis for the West Michigan Sports Commission, reporting to the commission and a complex oversight committee. Baar’s role for the remainder of 2013 is to help oversee construction operations, which will shift to marketing the complex and creating a tournament schedule as construction nears completion in 2014. He will manage all complex operations, including tournaments, once the complex opens in 2015.

Baar has been coaching and training baseball and softball athletes for more than 15 years, beginning his career in 1989 when he was drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers as a catcher and played four years in the Dodgers’ organization on A, AA, and AAA teams. In 1995, Baar founded Elite Baseball and Softball Training in Grand Rapids, which trains more than 1,000 athletes annually ranging from ages 5-22. A Grand Rapids native, Baar studied business management and accounting at Western Michigan University, where he also was a three-year varsity baseball letter winner.

“I am extremely excited to be given the opportunity to manage a first-class baseball and softball facility that will ultimately showcase the Grand Rapids area as a premier destination for baseball and softball teams from throughout the Midwest,” said Baar. “I am grateful and humbled that the West Michigan Sports Commission and its board has entrusted me with making the Art Van Sports Complex the place to play when teams are looking for tournament destinations in the future.”

The West Michigan Sports Commission also is launching a new website, www.artvansportscomplex.com, to serve as an information hub on complex-related news. During 2013, the site will highlight construction and fundraising updates, while in 2014 the site will start populating tournaments coming to the complex.

The site ultimately will serve as a resource for all tournament activities once the complex is fully operational, including online registration for players and game scores to follow team progress.

“Our new website will be a destination both now for construction and fundraising news and after the facility opens for sharing key tournament details,” said Guswiler.

A key feature of the website is an easy portal for attracting donations for the Art Van Sports Complex, which still needs $485,000 to reach its $7.4 million goal for Phase 1. (Through construction cost savings, the original project estimate of $7.8 million was reduced to $7.4 million.) Through the “Everyone Wins” campaign, individuals can order online engraved bricks for $150; and brass baseballs, softballs and bats ranging from $250 to $1,000 – each of which will be installed on permanent display at the new complex.

“Everyone in West Michigan benefits from the success of the Art Van Sports Complex in terms of economic impact and quality of life, so we urge everyone to get involved in bringing this project to reality,” said Guswiler. “We are grateful for the generous gifts from corporations and philanthropic organizations that got us to this point, and now it’s time for the entire community to get behind the project through these affordable giving levels that also provide a lasting legacy.”

The WMSC is developing the Art Van Sports Complex to support its mission of promoting the region as a premier venue for hosting youth and amateur sports to enhance the region’s economy and quality of life – which includes assuring the community has tournament-quality venues. The complex is estimated to attract more than 75 events and 135,000 visitors in its first five years of operation, with an economic impact for Kent County in excess of $20 million, including average annual hotel revenues of $1.5 million.

A flagship project of the West Michigan Sports Commission, the Art Van Sports Complex will be a 12-field, championship-caliber baseball/softball complex serving West Michigan. Upon completion of Phase 1 in late summer 2014, this state-of-the-art facility based in Rockford will feature eight baseball and softball fields, including a 385-foot fenced championship field; covered championship grandstands to seat 1,000 spectators; a Miracle Field for children with disabilities; warm-up areas, restrooms, concessions, maintenance building and picnic shelters; and parking for more than 400 vehicles. Visit www.artvansportscomplex.com for more information.

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