Proposed state legislation to create a Northern Michigan Regional Tourism and Sports Fund to utilize existing state dollars for recreational and tourism-related facilities and events is being actively endorsed by the Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce.
The proposal would establish a Northern Michigan Regional Tourism and Sports Fund to create a Great Lakes Sports Commission centered on improving or developing facilities and events across Northern Michigan including the Upper Peninsula that promote tourism and recreation across the region.
“Northern Lower Michigan and the Upper Peninsula offer numerous facilities and events that support recreation and tourism that are major contributors to the region’s economy,” said Kent Wood, Director of Government Relations for the Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce. “However, our region lacks the institutional infrastructure to access existing state revenue sources that could significantly enhance those facilities to attract world-class competitions and events to our communities.”
The bills would allocate up to $1.9 million annually for the next 10 years from the state’s Convention Facility Development Fund, which primarily funds improvements to Cobo Center in Downtown Detroit. The fund currently has a $14 million surplus. It’s primarily funded by statewide liquor taxes funded and by an excise tax from convention hotels in the Metro Detroit area.
A near-term priority for the Great Lakes Sports Commission would be to renovate the Copper Peak ski jump in Ironwood to enable it to host an internationally sanctioned ski jump Grand Prix event. Other possibilities could include upgrades to the Centre ICE facility in Traverse City needed to keep the Detroit Red Wings training camp and National Hockey League Prospects Camp based in Traverse City. Such projects would be subject to the review and approval of the Great Lakes Sports Commission that would be established through the legislation.
Wood testified last fall before the Senate Commerce Committee in support of the proposal. He was joined by five-time U.S. Olympian Billy Demong, a gold medalist in Nordic skiing at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver and the head of USA Nordic, the governing body for Nordic skiing in the U.S. Demong testified in support of the bill, as did John Heilig, Executive Director of Copper Peak and the Technical Delegate for the Ski Jumping and Nordic Combined events at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Japan, and next month’s 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
Other business organizations joining the Traverse City Area Chamber in support of the bill include the Benzie County Chamber of Commerce, the Cadillac Area Chamber, the Petoskey Regional Chamber and the Lake Superior Community Partnership based in Marquette.