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“It changes lives dramatically.” World's largest Special Olympics campus opens in Michigan

Posted at 1:25 PM, Jul 23, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-23 13:25:56-04

GRAND RAPIDS, MI (WXYZ) — Grand Rapids will host the world's largest Special Olympics training facility in the world.

“We not only wanna make it the world’s largest, we want it to be the world’s greatest,” President and CEO of Special Olympics Michigan Tim Hileman said.

Hileman is the one who came across this 127 thousand square feet building and its 17 acres of land.

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“This has all of the sports facilities that we can dream about let alone now it’s a school which provides training elements for our coaches, for our athletes,” he said.

The campus grounds is an old high school in Grand Rapids. Hileman said it can serve all 20,000 Special Olympics athletes across Michigan.

“It is really cool to see. I got goosebumps right now just talking about it,” mother to a Special Olympics athlete Mary Beth Erhardt said.

Mary Beth and her son Max have been a part of Special Olympics Michigan for seven years now. All that time, Max has been practicing on other people’s courts.

“I played a lot of away games,” he said.

But now these athletes have their own space to call home.

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The training facility will be called the Unified Sports and Inclusion Center because it will cater to more than just athletes. Nine other organizations will be housed in this facility as well.

“Organization such as the Mental Health Foundation, the Disability Advocates of Kent County, the Autism Support of Kent County. By putting them under one roof it really provides kind of this holistic support for individuals and families," Hileman said.

Special Olympics Michigan has already begun renovating its new space, but Hileman says they’ll need a lot more money to completely renovate it.

“We just raised over $7 million. We know that throughout the life and journey of this building our goal is actually going to be raising up to $20 million to really transform it into a world-class facility,” Heilman said.

To donate to the Special Olympics Michigan or to learn more about their new facility, click here.