Great Lakes Sports Commission invests in Northern MI communities to help build economic strength



For Great Lakes Sports Commission
on June 17, 2023 at 04:02 AM

In May, the Great Lakes Sports Commission (GLSC) invested $150,000 in the Petoskey Winter Sports Park as part of a project to make the Northern Michigan landmark a year-round destination.

Previously, the sports commission backed the I-500 snowmobile racetrack renovation project with a $150,000 grant. This grant will help create year-round track use opportunities generating economic impact that will boost the quality of life and the economic vitality of the Sault Ste. Marie region.

An earlier commitment kicked in $1 million to support a 28,000-square-foot dedicated ice facility that transforms the Traverse City Curling Club into a world-class center that will draw athletes from around the country.

Since its inception in 2019, the GLSC has infused more than $5.5 million into efforts that will make a 36-county region “from the knuckles up” in Michigan, a premier destination for year round recreation, sports and tourism.

“Northern Michigan’s landscape is so rich with resources, and there are great opportunities for the Great Lakes Sports Commission to be a leader in sports events because of our region’s unique strengths,” said GLSC Executive Director Eric Marvin, who joined the commission this year after a 15-year career developing sports organizations in Indiana. “People want to come and experience northern Michigan year round, and we want to deliver by leveraging sports and recreation for a stronger region.”

LEARN MORE: Discover the values, mission and history of the Great Lakes Sports Commission.

“It starts with infrastructure development that either bolsters existing amenities with additional funding or assists with start-up costs on projects that create stronger, more vibrant places for Michigan residents to enjoy and attract the attention of event planners and visitors, “Marvin said.

The market is ripe for the taking, with an annual economic impact of nearly $92 billion, including $40 billion in direct spending nationally. A study by the Sports Events & Tourism Association found that sports and recreation support 635,000 jobs and generates $13 billion in tax revenue.

Closer to home, Michigan has already carved out significant benefits with 232,000 direct jobs, $2.1 billion in state and local tax revenue and an estimated $26 billion of financial activity. The GLSC partners with local sporting visitors bureaus to drive activity in Northern Michigan.

“Investing in sports facilities and venues drives investment in the communities that they serve,” said Marvin. “We want to serve as a catalyst and help build the area’s momentum.

“Northern Michigan has such diversity in the sports and recreation culture that it is truly a four-season wonderland, and we can offer something that many other locations can’t. It’s important for us to lean on and develop our strengths.”

In addition to the curling, snowmobiling and winter sports park contributions, here’s a look at the other projects GLSC has provided with grants or loans:

  • Pine Mountain Ski Jump in Iron Mountain: $3.6 million loan to the Kiwanis Ski Club for renovation of the ski jump tower and other upgrades that support hosting international competitions.
  • Copper Peak in Ironwood: $144,000 grant for repairs that could lead to the return of international ski jumping events.
  • Hickory Hills in Traverse City: $125,000 grant for new ski infrastructure that enhances the park’s season reach.
  • Michigan Tech Trails in Houghton: $150,000 grant that improves the trail’s lodge, which is a base for hundreds of cross country skiing, snowshoeing and fat tire biking events.
  • Flintfields Horse Park in Traverse City: $250,000 in matching funds to extend the American Gold Cup equestrian event by a week.
  • Ishpeming Ski Club: $55,000 grant to help complete the iconic Suicide Bowl ski venue improvement project at the only “summer hills” in Michigan and Northeastern Wisconsin.

Supporters of the projects, state legislators and other partners have praised the GLSC’s involvement in northern Michigan’s communities.

Linda Hoath, the executive director of the Sault Area Convention & Visitors Bureau, noted the GLSC grant was the first major contribution to its fundraising efforts for the I-500 improvement plan.

“We appreciate the commitment and partnership from the Great Lakes Sports Commission to help us kick start our fundraising campaign for the I-500 track renovation project,” Hoath said. “This project will not only enhance an already significant event but also help us expand to year round use for events and tourism attraction to the U.P.”

From Marvin’s perspective, each project brings more to the table for northern Michigan.

“Support from our state legislators and community partners combined with the vision and determination of the organizations and venues within our region, are a great example of what collaboration can do for our communities,” Marvin said.

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