MARQUETTE — 2022 is an official Winter Olympics year, but these sports will also make a special appearance this winter in Marquette.
Officials with the Michigan Sports Alliance announced that registration has begun for the Meijer State Games of Michigan-Winter Games sports hub in Marquette, an inaugural event set for Feb. 25-27.
The Meijer State Games, which is open to all ages and ability levels, is a traditional winter sports festival that features eight sporting events at six venues as well as an opening ceremony on Feb. 25 presented by Northern Michigan University.
Winter Games sports will include cross country skiing, curling, figure skating, ice hockey, luge, Nordic combined, ski and snowboard, and ski jumping. Registration rates vary by sport and can be found on each sports’ webpage.
All registered athletes and spectators will receive free admission to the opening ceremony, which will be held at the Marquette Mountain Resort and feature a parade of athletes, lighting of the cauldron and entertainment to will be announced.
Games Executive Director Eric Engelbarts was at Marquette Mountain on Tuesday to scout the location.
Engelbarts said the search for the Winter Games location began through the Great Lakes Sports Commission, with several other cities interested in hosting the games.
“In looking at the Travel Marquette proposal and all the partners they had brought to the table, it was almost a no-brainer that Marquette was going to be perfect location to launch this kind of new traditional type of Winter Games, and working our way around the community, it’s been nothing but support,” Engelbarts said. “It’s been a great addition to the Meijer State Games of Michigan, and we’re looking forward to getting it started here in February.”
Sometimes a lot of snow can be an advantage to holding such an event.
Engelbarts said the Winter Games were launched several years ago in the Grand Rapids area, with skiing and snowboarding part of the event.
“The snow became inconsistent, and we ended up having to cancel two or three years in a row,” said Engelbarts, who noted that essentially the Winter Games were summer — or indoor — sports.
Then came COVID-19.
“One of the nice things the pandemic did was give us a little bit more time to think about it and be able to go out and actually find a host that will allow us to do the skiing, the snowboarding, the luge and the cross country skiing — everything that you would typically associate with the Winter Games,” Engelbarts said.
He acknowledged the Winter Games are a multisport, Olympic-style event, but participants don’t need to be an Olympian to compete, with all ages and abilities welcome. There will be adaptive divisions, he said, in cross country skiing, plus there will be a sled hockey exhibition as part of the youth hockey tournament.
Current sponsors of the Meijer State Games of Michigan-Winter Games in Marquette are Meijer, Travel Marquette, NMU, the Great Lakes Sports Commission, Upper Peninsula Health Plan, the Superior Alliance for Independent Living Disability Network and the Peninsula Fiber Network.
“NMU is excited to sponsor the opening ceremonies for the Winter Games,” the university said in a statement. “Our hope is to recruit future students as we showcase our campus and community to the competitors and their families.”
For more information on registration, sports rules and venue locations, visit www.stategamesofmichigan.com/marquette-winter-games.
The Michigan Sports Alliance is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit established in 2016 to encourage Michigan residents of all ages and abilities to live active and healthy lives. MISA is the operator of the Meijer State Games of Michigan-Winter and Summer Games. The Meijer State Games of Michigan is a member of the National Congress of State Games and is one of 30 State Games programs in the U.S.
Christie Mastric can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250. Her email address is [email protected] net.