Grand Rapids, MI is among the markets in the mix for the upcoming USL division III league, and circuit officials are giving the city high marks.
As announced earlier this year, the USL intends to launch a division III league for the 2019 season. The league has been billed as one that would bring professional soccer to markets between 150,000 and a million in population, covering a wide range of possibilities. Since the league was formally announced, several markets–including Lexington, KY— have been identified as possible host cities, and Grand Rapids is apparently among those in the mix.
Acording to USL DIII vice president Steven Short, league officials have visited Grand Rapids. Short has also given Grand Rapids some high marks, citing its downtown and populace as benefits. More from the Grand Rapids Business Journal:
“The Grand Rapids you hear and read about, with the 60-plus breweries and the downtown culture was awesome to experience,” Short said. “You can tell it’s thriving, it’s a mix of young and old and it’s definitely a sports city.”
Short and USL DIII Business Development Director Josh Keller toured Grand Rapids last month as part of an exploratory tour of cities that could support a possible USL franchise. In addition to Grand Rapids, Midwest cities visited included Lansing, Dayton, Toledo and Fort Wayne.
During their Grand Rapids visit, Short and Keller met with city officials and local sports figures, including West Michigan Sports Commission President Mike Guswiler, Grand Rapids Griffins President Tim Gortsema, Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce Chief Strategy Officer Paul Rumler, The Right Place Vice President of Strategy Rick Chapla and Grand Rapids Football Club President Matt Roberts. The pair also met with West Michigan Whitecaps executives, including CEO Lew Chamberlin and president Scott Lane.
This is not the first time that the USL has been linked to Grand Rapids. In December, it was reported that a study on future development proposed a new USL stadium as a possible amenity that could be constructed. The Grand Rapids Business Journal reports that it is possible that, if a new stadium for USL DIII is constructed, it could be designed to accommodate future expansion should the organization move up to the division II USL.
Grand Rapids is currently home to Grand Rapids FC, a member of the National Premier Soccer League.
Image courtesy USL.