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When the Pitch Succeeds

By Kathy Gibbons

Horseshoe
A participants prepares to compete. || Courtesy of the Lansing Sports Commission

Meghan Ziehmer, executive director of the Lansing Sports Commission, had been bidding to attract the World Horseshoe Pitching Tournament to Lansing since she first started with the Greater Lansing Convention & Visitors Bureau (now called Choose Lansing) around 2009. The community had been working to attract the event even longer—since 1976. Finally, those efforts paid off, with the tournament coming to the Lansing area this past July. Here, Ziehmer offers a behind-the-scenes glimpse at what it takes to put on a horseshoe tournament with 955 pitchers from 48 states and five countries.

M+E:  What was your organization’s role?

MZ: We partnered with the Michigan Horseshoe Pitchers Association to serve as the host for the event. We submitted an application and received a grant through the State of Michigan’s Large Special Event Fund. As host, we were responsible for the funding and execution of the event, from setup through teardown, except for handling the registration process. We secured 25 tons of Kentucky blue, coordinated the transportation of the clay from Kentucky and [a] semitrailer of equipment from the previous year’s host [Monroe, Louisiana], served as the main point of contact with the Lansing Center on all event logistics, secured volunteers, unloaded the trailer, mixed the clay with mortar mixers we brought in, secured bleachers, set up fencing, assembled the horseshoe pits, [coordinated] the Junior Welcome Reception and Party, and then [completed] teardown following the event. We really transformed the exhibit hall into a world tournament [venue] with 58 courts for a total of 116 pits. My team coordinated the hotel blocks, provided welcome and visitor information, worked the registration booth and overall provided anything needed for the setup, teardown, and community engagement aspect of the event. 

M+E:  What did hosting the tournament signify to the community?

MZ: The event produced approximately 3,300 room night stays. This doesn’t include any campgrounds or Airbnb-type rentals. They embraced their time in the community by eating in our restaurants and exploring our attractions for two solid weeks. The economic impact was tremendous.

M+E: Is it typical for your team to have such an active role in event planning?

MZ: We have found a number of events our region could support, but the organizations didn’t have the resources—they’re already spread too thin. This allows us to be an extension of its staff. Our services allow us to fill a void and boost economic impact to our region at the same time.

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