GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Organizers are making progress on a plan to bring a soccer stadium to the heart of downtown Grand Rapids.

Those leading the charge say it could bring the city together.

“I think professional soccer offers a huge opportunity to unify our community in many ways, with it being the fastest-growing sport in North America but also a really important sport to the fastest growing demographic of West Michigan,” said Kara Wood, the executive director of Grand Action 2.0, the group behind the project.

Wood confirmed the project has drawn interest from Major League Soccer and the United Soccer League.

“We’ve had interest from both professional soccer leagues,” Wood said. “At this point, we don’t have a team. We can’t have a team until we have plans for a stadium well underway. The construction of a facility comes first.”

It’s still unknown where the stadium would be. A year ago, Grand Action 2.0 was considering a site near the YMCA north of Pearl Street and west of US-131. It’s now one of several possible sites. The goal is to build a stadium in the downtown area.

“A site very close to downtown would be desirable because of the access to hotel rooms, restaurants and other amenities,” Wood said. “The leagues that are interested in West Michigan are certainly interested in a downtown location.”

Renderings drawn up by the firm Progressive AE Inc. that were released to News 8 Wednesday show what the stadium could look like.

  • A rendering designed by Progressive AE shows what a Grand Rapids soccer stadium could look like. (Courtesy Grand Action 2.0)
  • A rendering designed by Progressive AE shows what a Grand Rapids soccer stadium could look like. (Courtesy Grand Action 2.0)
  • A rendering designed by Progressive AE shows what a Grand Rapids soccer stadium could look like. (Courtesy Grand Action 2.0)

Wood said the drawings are preliminary and were made to show possible basic features. An actual stadium could end up looking completely different.

It’s still early in the process, but the goal is to get a team before soccer’s biggest worldwide event comes to the U.S.

“I think our hope is to have professional soccer in West Michigan during the World Cup in North America in 2026,” Wood said. “It would be remarkable for West Michigan and the state of Michigan as a whole.”

An agreement was made on Oct. 6 that helped move the project forward. The Grand Rapids-Kent County Convention/Arena Authority Board confirmed in writing that it would work with Grand Action 2.0 in developing, funding, constructing and operating a soccer stadium.

Those are the same groups teaming up to build the Acrisure Amphitheater in Grand Rapids.

The soccer stadium project is currently in the schematic design phase, Wood said. Organizers are looking at how much the stadium would cost.

“It is a pretty significant investment,” Wood said. “Based on our experience with the amphitheater, those costs just continue to rise.”

The team is also reviewing the feasibility of building the stadium, where it could be located and what it would look like.

“It’s not just soccer-specific, but there will be other sports played, other activities take place at an event space like this,” Wood said.

While organizers continue to look for funding, Wood hopes state lawmakers will approve legislation allowing cities and townships in Kent County to use a 2% lodging tax and an 8% tax on hotel and motel stays to help pay for the soccer stadium and the amphitheater.

“It’s important to know our residents don’t actually pay that,” Wood said. “A very small percentage of people that live in Kent County would actually pay it. It’s really the business travel and also tourists that pay that.”

Wood said it’s critical for West Michigan to continue to grow and thrive so the region can compete into the future.

“Long term, this project has the opportunity to set us apart from the rest of the state of Michigan but certainly in the Midwest, too,” Wood said. “We will be able to compete at a higher level with other cities like Indianapolis, Columbus. This venue sets us apart.”