Golden Gloves looking to punch some green
by David Mayo | The Grand Rapids Press
Sunday April 27, 2008, 12:12 AM
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Shawn Gary, as vice president of Kent Beverage Co., has sponsored Golden
Gloves locally since the early 1990s.
GRAND RAPIDS -- Hundreds of Golden Gloves boxers and officials will brighten
downtown with their array of team colors next week, including the most
important color in convention business, green. When the National Golden
Gloves Tournament of Champions leaves town after its May 5-10 run at DeVos
Place, not all winners will be determined by the scorecards. About 1,000 boxers,
coaches, tournament officials, franchise representatives, and friends and family
of those groups, are expected to descend on the city beginning next weekend,
according to an estimate by the West Michigan Sports Commission. Some will
stay up to nine hotel nights, and much of the estimated $800,000 they are
expected to leave behind is up for grabs. Shawn Gary, as vice president of Kent
Beverage Co., has sponsored Golden Gloves locally since the early 1990s. He
said his company's bar clients have greeted marketing efforts enthusiastically
and there is "no question" they will see the payoff in unique business. "We're
hitting certain geographic areas and certain classes of accounts -- downtown,
the west side, the local American Legion, which sponsored Golden Gloves for
many years, and also sports-bar venues," said Gary, whose company holds
rights to sell Coors and Corona beer at local Golden Gloves events, and has
created cross-marketing advertising banners and placards for bar placement.
"We go in and sell them on this whole program," he said. "And this is a great
group of people who own these bars and restaurants. It's not a hard-sell at all.
They like the idea, they really do." Mike Guswiler, as executive director of the
West Michigan Sports Commission, works to provide administrative support to
local events. Guswiler said the WMSC, which calculated the estimate, has
worked with the Kent County Convention and Visitors Bureau so the groups
frame economic projections in "the same language." "Whenever you do an
economic impact estimate, it's just that, an estimate," Guswiler said. "There are
so many different formulas. But I think, ultimately, when it comes down to it,
you're looking at new money coming into the community." In that effort, a
per-diem number used to assess visitors' daily hotel, food and other
expenditures is multiplied by the projected number of visitors, then multiplied
again by the average number of nights each is expected to stay. Projecting
hotel room nights in an elimination tournament is largely guesswork. Some
boxers who lose early will leave quickly. Others, bound by work obligations,
flight limitations, or team requirements, will stay all week. Nevertheless, about
half the visitors should remain throughout next week, and when Michigan
Golden Gloves won the right to host the tournament, its bid included a projected
2,280 hotel nights used in conjunction with the event, based on the number
used for the 2005 tournament in Little Rock, Ark., the year before Grand Rapids
secured the upcoming nationals. The economic impact estimate allowed a per
diem of $150 per person, which may be high for many younger boxers, but also
included only 1,500 projected room nights.
Jim Beasley, executive director of the Golden Gloves Association of America,
said he expects to fill about 350 rooms nightly, and predicted the 2,280 rooms
projected two years ago will prove close to accurate. He said Wednesday of
tournament week will be the first opportunity for early losers to leave -- after
they have stayed at least three nights -- and many of those efforts are
discouraged, or even disallowed. "Based in past practice, and what my
experience has been over the last 40 years, a good portion of the boxers will
stay for the whole tournament," Beasley said. "Some franchise delegates have
a flat attitude, and it's my attitude, that if I've got a young guy with potential who
loses in the first round -- and now he's not training every night, he's not cooped
up anymore, he's got a lot of free time on his hands -- I'd rather have him right
there, cheering on his teammates." Golden Gloves has a block of about 240
rooms reserved nightly at two downtown hotels, the Courtyard Marriott and
Days Hotel, although other teams plan to stay elsewhere. Three teams,
including Michigan boxers who must travel from outside Grand Rapids, will stay
at the Radisson Riverfront. Other teams chose their own accommodations. The
Chicago team is reserved at the Amway. At least three teams plan to stay on
28th Street. By mid-week, after everyone has settled in -- and half the boxers
have been eliminated -- those people stuck in multiple-occupant hotel rooms
will need diversions. Guswiler said downtown museums, movie theaters and
shopping malls could benefit then. "It's good business, they stay in our hotels,
they eat in our restaurants, and if you have other ancillary services they can
participate in, that will increase the economic impact," he said. Last year's
National Golden Gloves, in Chattanooga, Tenn., produced $505,000 in direct
local impact, according to statistics from the Greater Chattanooga Sports and
Events Committee. Attendance was limited to a smattering of fans. While the
biggest financial variable for non-profit host Michigan Golden Gloves
Association is how local fans respond, from an economic impact standpoint, it
doesn't matter what sport is played -- or even whether locals attend -- as long as
visitors come, stay, eat, and seek entertainment. Last weekend, WMSC
estimated that a quartet of events produced more than $1 million in impact -- the
Great Lakes Lacrosse Classic, Alliance FC Spring Soccer Invitational, Grand
Rapids Storm Classic basketball tournament, and West Michigan Spring Fling
baseball tournament -- by bringing 4,600 participants and spectators, and filling
about 1,000 hotel rooms. In two weeks, another big sports weekend looms: The
venerable River Bank Run is scheduled the morning of May 10, with the National
Golden Gloves finals that night. "Looking at that particular event, you've got a
shorter time, but a much larger audience," Guswiler said. "There were about
13,000 people downtown for the River Bank Run last year, but you also have a
high percentage of locals. They're really two completely different events.
"Regardless, it's going to be a very big weekend."