Grand Rapids Football Club shutters, citing pandemic and financial challenges

Sports

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Grand Rapids’ developmental soccer team is no more.

The Grand Rapids Football Club announced Wednesday it was disbanding after seven seasons, blaming the pandemic and “several other significant financial challenges.”

The club struggled when the 2020 season was canceled and without a home venue, saying it was faced with “time-sensitive decisions” following this summer’s season.

“It hurts, and I want every fan and supporter to know we worked tirelessly for the past few months on solutions and alternatives,” former player and general manager Joe Broekhuizen said in a statement posted to GRFC’s website.

He offered a heartfelt thank you to everyone who supported the club, including its founders, lifetime members, fans, players, coaches and families.

“The pandemic really hurt us because the big one is that we lost Houseman Field with them being GRPS, even this summer they were very careful about events being hosted there and different things of that nature, which is understandable, but we knew moving forward if we were gonna make this work we needed a marketable home field,” Broekhuizen said.

Former player Scott Doney holds the records for most club appearances and goals scored. He played four seasons from 2016 through 2019.

Originally from New Zeeland, he felt at home in Grand Rapids with the hospitality from the club and the community.

“The memories there will last forever, for sure. The friends I met there and I gained along the way and the people at the club itself, the coaches, the owners, they all became great friends of mine as well and have helped me along the way,” Doney said.

The fans were known for their festive marches to the stadium, which became an important club tradition.

Eric Albertson owns the SpeakEz Lounge, a popular soccer fan hangout, and had been a supporter of the team for the beginning. The bar was the title sponsor of the first season and has the original scarf and jersey displayed proudly on the wall.

“It’s sad to know that it’s going away for a little bit but I just refuse to believe that it’s gonna go away forever,” Albertson said. “This isn’t goodbye to football in Grand Rapids and I don’t think it’s goodbye to Grand Rapids Football Club. I think it’s gonna rise in another form. It’s just waiting for someone to come along and pick it up.”

GRFC launched in 2015 at Houseman Field, where Grand Rapids high school football teams play. A women’s club became affiliated in 2016 and the ladies won the United Women’s Soccer League that season.

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