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Grand Rapids set to host the world's largest Special Olympics facility

Special Olympics Michigan

Special Olympics Michigan provides year-round sports training and athletic competition to more than 23,000 athletes with intellectual disabilities.

It’s latest effort would open the state’s doors, mainly West Michigan, to more than 193 countries and 5.4 million athletes, as the organization plans to build the world's largest Special Olympics facility in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

“A campus that’s going to show the world the importance of community and inclusion, a campus where all gifts and all gifts and all abilities are celebrated, a campus that will not only raise awareness but expectations,” Special Olympics Michigan President and CEO, Tim Hileman said, "Around the country and around the world, when they visit this region they can come to this building and say this is home."

Hileman, along with other project leaders, announced the Building Tomorrow’s Champions capital campaign on Thursday inside the former South Christian High School gymnasium. The multi-million-dollar fundraising effort would renovate and transform the gym into the Special Olympics Unified Sports and Inclusion Center. 

"Today in Grand Rapids and in the state of Michigan we are that next step and next part of that global movement of Special Olympics International," he said.

The center would feature new sports fields across a 17-acre property, expanded space for programming, administrative offices and educational and wellness spaces. Operational Chair for the campaign, former Lt. Gov. of Michigan Brian Calley, said in addition to hosting competitions, the center is expected to generate millions in economic development for West Michigan.

"This it puts us on the map. People come far and wide for competition, and these are fierce competitions," Calley said.

The capital campaign launched in 2020 and has raised more than $6.7 million. Thursday's announcement opens the public phase of the campaign which, when completed, will total more than $20 million in investments.