PLAINFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — When the manager of downtown Rockford’s Corner Bar checks the schedules at the Meijer Sports Complex just down the road, it’s not so he can go see a game — it’s to make sure he’s staffed for the crowds.
“Just so we know ahead of time who’s coming in and how many people we can expect,” Corner Bar Manager Chris Elam said. “We get a lot of teams on the weekend and events and a lot of travelling teams.”
The complex on 10 Mile Road east of US-131 is proof of an often-quoted baseball movie line: If you build it, they will come.
“They did come and they keep coming,” West Michigan Sports Commission President Mike Guswiler said.
On Tuesday, WMSC, which owns the complex that serves youth and adult amateur athletes, announced an $11 million expansion set to begin construction in 2024.
The decision came after the past few seasons showed exceptional growth in visitors and spending, according to WMSC. During April through October 2022, 11% more teams played at the Meijer Sports Complex than the previous year. That meant more people spending money in and around the area. WMSC reports that visitor spending was up 44% from 2021 and 32% from pre-pandemic levels in 2019.
“With eight seasons in, it’s certainly hitting capacity in certain capacities, segments, and we see opportunity,” Guswiler said.
This summer alone, more than 9,000 athletes and 24,000 spectators pumped over $8 million into the local economy. The complex has generated an estimated $52 million since it opened in 2014.
New features of the expansion will include a new championship softball field, three youth diamonds, resurfacing of the Miracle Field, a new concession building, restrooms and expanded storage. It will also bring a new playground area, canopies over all bleacher seating, turf on the Championship baseball field and 450 additional parking spaces. One of the faster growing amateur sports is also included in plan.
“We’re working with Rockford Pickleball and we’re looking to add 20 pickleball courts,” Guswiler said.
The expansion is set to grow into the remaining land south of the complex. It should be able to accommodate 200 more teams per year and bring in an additional $1 million in visitor spending annually.
The $11 million is expected to be raised through a “Winning Streak” fundraising campaign from both private and public funds beginning this fall, said WMSC. It hopes to be finished with fundraising and begin construction by 2024.
But will pockets of contributors be as deep as they were when the complex was built?
“The challenge certainly is there in terms of material costs, labor costs, inflation over 10 years. So the number is a little bit bigger. But this is a very giving community,” Guswiler said.
For more information, visit the WMSC “Winning Streak” website.