USA Weightlifting wowed by GR, returning in 2018

When my team and I first thought about going to Grand Rapids for the USA Weightlifting Nike American Series Open 3 last month at DeVos Place, it might be fair to say we had some quiet concerns. The West Michigan Sports Commission (WMSC) was great to work with when we awarded the event in 2016 – but would we get the attendance we needed? Would our athletes enjoy the experience in this friendly Midwest city compared to larger cities we’d been to in recent years? How would the city deal with a truly national event?

Fast forward to Sept. 8-10, 2017, and it became clear our “quiet concerns” were totally unnecessary. Jamie Schlagel, Katy Tigchelaar and the rest of the proactive team at the WMSC went the extra mile for us. From making sure everyone was welcomed with directions at the airport, to literally bringing snacks and coffee to our referees and staff at the event, they went over and above the whole weekend. That’s right, weekend. When they weren’t on the clock and didn’t have to do that.

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While every event has its challenges, our local event partners delivered everything we could hope for to facilitate a smooth-running event.  The event venue, DeVos Place, was nicely located, adjacent to our headquarters hotel at the Amway Grand Plaza, in the heart of downtown Grand Rapids with plenty of places to step away from the convention center. The service level was truly high, and not just to us, but much more importantly, to our membership.

So, how do we know?

1. Our members told us so!! We do a survey after every event, and Grand Rapids scored the highest of any event this year so far. It’s clear people saw the efforts of everyone involved coming through in their own experience.

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2. USA Weightlifting is coming back! Within two weeks, we confirmed that we would return to Grand Rapids for our prestigious National Youth Championships and Youth Olympic Games Trials in 2018. The event is the largest youth event in the world in the sport. The West Michigan Sports Commission even addressed some of the very small things we raised to make sure our experience is even better next year. You can read more about the bid win here.

3. Our people wanted to come back. We always ask our people if they would return to a city – not based on the business side of an event, but on the personal experience of the individual answering that survey. It was almost unanimous. Not only that, but the experience created ambassadors within our own membership for the city.

4. Great facilities. A convention center is a convention center, right? WRONG! Part of the reason we are willing to come back is a cooperative and easy experience with DeVos Place and the neighboring Amway Grand Plaza. The two organizations worked really well not only with us but with each other. As a CEO of an organization, you want to see two groups smiling at the end of the event – your staff and your members. At this event, we saw both.

See everyone back in Grand Rapids in June 2018!

Phil Andrews
Guest Blogger
Phil is CEO of USA Weightlifting, the national governing body for the sport.