Gun Lake Casino Announces $2.5 Million Deal with Special Olympics Michigan

Jessica Aletor
Jessica Aletor


  • Gun Lake Tribe, Gun Lake Casino and Special Olympics Michigan have announced a sponsorship deal to the tune of $2.5 million.
  • The partnership aims to support the Unified Sports and Inclusion Center by upgrading the existing facility.
  • Officials note that upon completion, the facility would be the largest Special Olympics facility in the world.

Gun Lake Casino and its parent tribe have reached a sponsorship agreement with Special Olympics Michigan. The partnership deal is worth $2.5 million and would be directed towards improving the Special Olympics facility in Byron Township, Michigan.

Special Olympics Michigan purchased the former campus of the South Christian High School in Grand Rapids back in 2019. It has since begun renovation attempts in a bid to transform the school area to a Unified Sports & Inclusion Center training facility. The transformation is set to take place in three faces with the prospective completion date pegged at March 2024.

Gun Lake Casino Sponsorship Aims to Transform Former Campus Area to World’s Largest Training Facility

The Match-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish tribe of the Grand Rapids area of Michigan will be partnering with Special Olympics Michigan towards the transformation of the Unified Sports & Inclusion Center. Popularly known for their retail casino, Gun Lake Casino, and their online iGaming platform, betParx Casino MI, the tribe is sponsoring the large training facility project to the tune of $2.5million.

This partnership comes in addition to diverse funding received by Special Olympics Michigan since it purchased a former school campus with intentions to convert it to a training facility. The project would also include space for year-round programming, youth athlete training and development, league play and health and wellness services.

Interestingly, the project is to be undertaken in three phases. The first phase which was completed in December 2022 cost more than $5 million. It comprised the building of 10 tenant organizations, which includes the Disability Advocates of Kent County. The second phase would kick off in summer 2023 and should cover the construction of an outdoor spoor complex, including football fields, standard eight lane track and bocce courts.

Similarly, phase 3 would commence in fall 2023 with a view to upgrade common areas in the campus building and renovate existing rooms. This phase would cost $15 million, up from the $12 million cost projection for phase 2.

Special Olympics Michigan Chief Executives and Major Stakeholders Laud Gun Lake Casino Contribution

Several stakeholders have expressed excitement about the prospects of the partnership. In his press release, President and CEO of Special Olympics Michigan, Tim Hileman, praised Gun Lake Casino for their outstanding contribution to the community.

“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,” Hileman said. “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. 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.”

CEO OF Gun Lake Casino also provided testament to the casino’s commitment to community development.

“Gun Lake Casino has taken a bold step forward becoming a leader in placemaking for the region. Our investments aim to strengthen the community’s ability to attract visitors, provide unique entertainment, and create jobs,” said CEO Sal Semola. “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.”

What to Expect from the Unified Sports & Inclusion Center by March 2024

Officials of Special Olympics Michigan expect that the project would be completed by March 2024. Once completed, the training facility would be the world’s largest Special Olympics facility. It is hoped that the Unified Sports and Inclusion Center would enhance sports in Michigan by catering to individuals with intellectual disabilities in the state.

Besides, the program would foster health and wellness initiatives as well as leadership programs that would enable athletes to achieve success in both sports and general life endeavors. Bob Peters, Gun Lake Tribe Chairman, believes that the partnership would contribute immensely towards building an inclusive athletic community.

Gun Lake Casino’s investment is quite groundbreaking and may be the spark for community engagement among retail and online casinos in Michigan. The Wayland-based casino, as part of the partnership, would have three signs at the facility in Byron Township.

Jessica is a news contributor to Gamble Online Michigan. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Economics but has over three years of experience working in the hospitality and gambling industry. Despite her core finance and investment banking background, she has been a casino feature writer for N1 Interactive Limited and multiple gambling affiliate sites. Her work has been featured on the bet365 blog, and Max Force Racing. She spends her time between Michigan and California, staying up-to-date on the latest industry developments