Art Van Sports Complex nears grand opening with 2015 schedule nearly filled – MLive.com

ROCKFORD, MI – When Bryan Barr looks out over the fields at the new Art Van Sports Complex, he sees games – a lot of games, including MHSAA state finals – which could translate into a lot of revenue for the area.

“Rockford, I think, is prepared for what is going to happen but I don’t think they really know the influx of people and what will happen in that regard,” said Barr, the complex manager. “The restaurants, the hotels … I’ve coached for a long time and I can tell you, there is a lot of spending about to happen.”

Barr’s scheduling efforts since he was hired a year ago are about to go from plan to reality as the 60-acre complex on 3300 10 Mile Road in Plainfield Township prepares for its grand opening Aug. 1.

The $7.8 million facility, which broke ground Oct. 23, 2012, will open on schedule with eight diamonds for baseball and softball in its first phase, including a championship baseball field. A Miracle Field, for players with disabilities, has been operational since late last year. Four additional fields are planned for phase two.

Barr said the 2015 schedule already is packed. He said 23 of the estimated 27 usable/playable weekend dates are booked for baseball and softball tournaments.

“Our goal is to have every one of those booked, and we’re confident that by early spring we’ll have that,” said Barr, who is also the owner and founder of Elite Baseball and Softball Training in Grand Rapids and Wyoming.

Barr has set his sights on attracting the high school state finals for baseball and softball from the MHSAA. He said he has been in contact with the group to bring the baseball finals to the complex for 2015 and softball after that. Both were at Michigan State last year after 24 years at Bailey Park and C.O. Brown Stadium in Battle Creek.

“We would like to get the baseball championship for next year, that’s one of our goals,” he said. “We should know by the end of the month. We have the perfect venue for it.”

In the big picture of the facility, most of emphasis is on travel tournaments, and not just regionally, according to Barr, a former professional baseball player who coached and trained baseball and softball athletes for more than 16 years.

Scheduled tournaments for next year, he said, include teams from Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky. Those teams need places to stay, restaurants to eat at and, during down time, things to do for entertainment.

“We can say, ‘Hey we’re building an unbelievable complex,’ but we can also showcase the city and the area because we have a lot of fun things to do,” he said.

Mike Guswiler, president of the West Michigan Sports Commission, said the facility is expected to generate more than $10 million of economic impact during the first five years of operation.

Beginning in 2015, Barr said local baseball and softball leagues – including women’s and men’s fast pitch and perhaps youth– are being scheduled for the weekdays.

“I’m still trying to figure out how all that will jell together,” said Barr, who is not alone in the operation. The complex, which is under the umbrella of the West Michigan Sports Commission, also has a concession manager, marketing coordinator and a lawn care service.

“Most of the pieces are in place and we’re ready to go,” he said.

The opening ceremony on Aug. 1 will be followed by a baseball and softball tournament the next two days. Both are called “All-Star Weekend Presented By DeMarini.” Barr estimated about 250 boys and girls will participate.

Another baseball tournament is schedule over Labor Day weekend beginning Aug. 30, and the next softball action is scheduled in early October, Barr said.

For now, weekend tournaments are all that the complex can handle the remainder of this year.

“We just can’t play out there on a daily basis yet,” he said. “The fields, the grass, just isn’t ready for that yet, but they will be come spring.”

Pete Wallner covers sports for MLive/Grand Rapids Press. Email him at pwallner@mlive.com or follow him on Twitter, Facebook or Google+.

What Next?

Recent Articles

Leave a Reply

You must be Logged in to post comment.