Nearly 350,000 visitors have lined the fields at Westfield’s Grand Park Sports Campus since competition kicked off this spring, and now the city is hosting a three-day grand-opening celebration that promises to live up to the description.
The party starts Friday, with a 6 p.m. parking lot concert by local favorites Dave & Rae, a festival-like food court complete with beer garden (yes, some local brews will be on tap) and free rides on a 50-foot Ferris wheel offering a view of the whole 400-acre park.
Saturday’s festivities include the expected ribbon-cutting ceremony at 2 p.m.—with a grand twist. The ribbon Mayor Andy Cook, Gov. Mike Pence and others will snip from the stage stretches 1,000 feet from end to end. (A thousand=a grand, get it?)
Then comes a pair of concerts (Circle City Royals at 3:30 and Wright Brothers Band at 7) leading up to a 10 p.m. fireworks show.
The celebration wraps up early Sunday with a 5K race and shorter fun run through the complex, starting at 8 a.m. (Find the full schedule here.)
Oh, and don’t forget the main attraction: youth sports.
This weekend’s schedule includes a lacrosse tournament (fields F2-F8), baseball tournament (diamonds D1-D8) and championship softball (D21-D26).
Grand Park is the largest such complex in the United States, with 26 baseball diamonds and 31 multi-use fields. The $45 million park is an economic development play for Westfield, which hopes to draw businesses interested in the youth-sports market.
Nationwide, more than one-third of all tourism spending is tied to youth sports, according to the Michigan-based Travel and Tourism Research Association. Parents were expected to spend $8.1 billion last year on travel alone.
Cook expects commercial development to take off now that the park is open and crowds are exceeding expectations. Organizers projected opening-year attendance of 500,000—a mark the park likely will surpass well before season’s end.
“Those people want to see the numbers, and we’re producing the numbers,” he said.
Click here for more of IBJ's coverage of Grand Park.