On Thursday, leadership from Special Olympics Michigan (SOMI), Gun Lake Casino, and Gun Lake Tribe gathered to announce a new state-wide partnership, including the presenting sponsorship of the world's largest Special Olympics training facility located in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Made possible through a generous $2.5 million sponsorship agreement from Gun Lake Casino and Gun Lake Tribe, this partnership will support the Unified Sports & Inclusion Center as the premiere facility for all Special Olympics Michigan athletes to train and compete. Gun Lake Casino's investment will allow Special Olympics Michigan to better serve populations with intellectual disabilities across the state by enhancing overall sports competition, expanding critical health and wellness initiatives, as well as growing athlete leadership programs that teach athletes how to translate success in sport, to success in life.
"Gun Lake Casino has been a huge advocate for inclusion in our community, supporting numerous organizations that have put Michigan on the map in exciting ways during the past decade," said Tim Hileman, President & CEO of Special Olympics Michigan. "We are proud to be among their flagship investments that is making this training, competition, and general inclusion center a reality right here in Michigan.” Hileman continued, "This partnership between Gun Lake Casino and Special Olympics Michigan shows what happens when we are all truly invested in making Michigan a leader both in inclusion and community."
“Gun Lake Casino has taken a bold step forward becoming a leader in placemaking for the region,” said Sal Semola, CEO of Gun Lake Casino (GLC). “Our investments aim to strengthen the community’s ability to attract visitors, provide unique entertainment, and create jobs. The Special Olympics Michigan Unified Sports & Inclusion Center will do all of that with its ability to host sporting competitions, as well as conferences. Most important to us, however, is that it will do that through the eyes and experience of a truly diverse and inclusive population of people, who will play, learn, and work there. It’s a very unique and important addition to the Western Michigan community.”
Gun Lake Casino and Gun Lake Tribe are no stranger to supporting community efforts, as they have donated nearly $5 million to West Michigan civic organizations since 2011.
“This partnership with Special Olympics Michigan is a natural extension of Gun Lake Tribe’s commitment to building an inclusive community,” said Gun Lake Tribe Chairman, Bob Peters. “We are proud to join forces with such a powerful movement and help manifest its mission within the Unified Sports and Inclusion Center -- a world first!”
In 2019, Special Olympics Michigan purchased the facility formerly known as the South Christian High School campus, transforming it into the Unified Sports & Inclusion Center. Phase one of construction was completed in December 2022 with 10 tenant organizations currently operating from the facility. Phase two of the project is set to begin in early Summer 2023, which includes the completion of the outdoor sports complex at the facility.
Additional photos of the event can be found here.