Innovate, Create, Culminate: Downtown Sports Activities Boost Regional AssetsDrive by any suburban soccer field on nearly any Saturday afternoon and you should not be astonished to observe the sea of minivans and SUVs that belong to the host of families participating in youth sports. This phenomenon culminates in a multitude of tournaments, leagues and games that have economic impact from within the region.
Until recently, the words “downtown Lansing and sports” only brought to mind Lansing Lugnuts and certainly Cooley Law School Stadium — formerly Oldsmobile Park — that some 18 plus years ago served as a catalyst for downtown Lansing’s further re-development. In addition to serving as home to the Lansing Lugnuts, Cooley Law School Stadium hosts other sporting activities. The Diamond Classic annual high school baseball tourney pits greater Lansing’s top high school baseball programs in a prestigious tournament that enters its 52nd year. Coming into its 10th year in 2013, the Homerun for HOPE baseball tournament allows Lansing School District high school baseball players to compete and raise funds for the HOPE Scholarship program. The Kohl’s Michigan Mile is an annual kid’s race that promotes healthy behaviors in local schools and allows children an opportunity to participate in an activity in the stadium.
However, even more sporting activities are being created in downtown Lansing bringing additional economic impact to the greater Lansing region. Beyond the plethora of 5k races that use the streets surrounding the Capitol, there are very successful races that use areas beyond the traditional boundaries.
The Capital City River Run (which includes a half marathon, 5k, and kids race: www.ccriverrun.com) is an annual race held in September that draws several thousand runners from various locations and states. Starting in front of the Lansing Center, the race meanders throughout the region and finishes in Adado Riverfront Park. Proceeds from this race benefit many charitable community organizations and generate additional dollars in economic impact to the region. During the same weekend as the Capital City River Run, Lansing Center plays host to the annual Healthy & Fit Magazine Expo. This Expo is free to attend and offers people of all ages an opportunity to learn about healthy lifestyle products, demonstrations on activities and even some participation events for all who attend.
An even more recent addition to the running element of our community was the creation of the Inaugural Lansing Marathon in 2012. This race included a marathon, half-marathon, and 5k that had participants from several states, as well as international runners. The Lansing Marathon (www.lansingmarathon.com) is scheduled for April in 2013 and is considered a “tune up” for other spring races. It also benefits local charities and creates economic impact to our community.
If running is not your thing, there are plenty of other sporting activities to participate in or attend. For example, on a recent weekend the Lansing Center hosted both a mixed martial arts event and a Roller Derby bout (Lansing Center is home to the Lansing Derby Vixens www.lansingderbyvixens.com). These events are posted on the Lansing Center’s website (www.lansingcenter.com). Tickets are affordable, and the entertainment is outstanding.
While visiting downtown Lansing and the Lansing Center, you should stop in to the new home of the Greater Lansing Sports Hall of Fame! Located in the western portion of the Lansing Center, the updated venue has all the inductees’ plaques, memorabilia and interesting information related to sporting greats from our region.
An even more unique event to hit the sporting landscape of downtown Lansing is the Capital City Dragon Boat Race (www.capitalcitydragonboat.com). This fast-growing team activity allows our region to take advantage of one of our key downtown assets: the Grand River. Proceeds from the race are donated to Team Lansing Foundation and benefit the recreational development of the riverfront from Michigan Avenue to Saginaw Street, increasing access and usability for residents and visitors.
Many of these activities and sports are assisted by the Greater Lansing Sports Authority (GLSA), a subsidiary of the Greater Lansing Convention & Visitors Bureau (GLCVB). The GLSA actively seeks out sports opportunities to bring to our region; it also helps local organizations develop events that draw visitors to our community. The GLSA, GLCVB and Team Lansing Foundation are also committed to regional destination development.
We need to continue innovating our sports scene for the further development of downtown, which will culminate in additional regional economic impact. The creation of additional sporting events for downtown will further develop our region’s assets and expand our offerings into a more diverse sporting location. All of this should culminate in further economic growth to our region.
| ||Scott Keith is president and CEO of Lansing Entertainment & Public Facilities Authority (LEPFA). LEPFA manages Lansing Center, Cooley Law School Stadium (home of the Lansing Lugnuts), and Lansing City Market; LEPFA proudly co-sponsors/produces the Common Ground Music Festival, BWL Down by the River Chili Cook-off, Healthy & Fit Magazine Expo and other various community events.|