Sometimes a game is more than just a game. Sometimes it’s a means for providing millions of dollars in economic impact to a region, hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants to organizations that improve quality of life for area residents, and countless volunteer hours that aid those organizations in achieving their missions. So, when the final out is called at each Great Lakes Loons game, regardless of the outcome, Great Lakes Bay Region residents come out on top.
The Great Lakes Loons, the region’s Midwest League minor league baseball franchise that plays its home games at Midland’s Dow Diamond, is a unique organization in that it was envisioned and created as a non-profit organization.
“Community impact is the whole reason we exist,” says Paul Barbeau, Loons president and general manager. “We don’t exist to create a profit for shareholders; we exist to create a profit that is then invested into the community.”
The model takes an organization and treats it as a business, but generates a return to the community rather than to investors. This return comes in the form of grants, charitable donations, and volunteer hours by Loons employees, not to mention $23 million annually in economic impact to the region.
Two key components comprise charitable efforts at the Loons: a grant program administered by the Michigan Baseball Foundation (MBF), and a staff Vo-LOON-teer program. Together, these programs work in concert to improve quality of life for area residents.
Since 2008, MBF has awarded 184 grants totaling more than $620,000 to non-profit organizations in 13 counties that are within and adjacent to the Great Lakes Bay Region. Grants are given to organizations that contribute to regional economic development, serve area youths, or fund projects promoting amateur sports and fitness.
The Vo-LOON-teer program serves to further MBF’s reach. “Giving our time, talent, and expertise is important,” says Barbeau. “The Vo-LOON-teer program lets us put manpower behind grants.”
Through the program, Loons staff members partner with organizations—many being MBF grant recipients—to support and aid them in achieving their community improvement goals.
“We often send our grounds crew to Little League diamonds that receive grants,” says Barbeau. This provides top experts to care for the fields, and it also reduces labor cost for the projects, maximizing the grant’s community impact.
The Loons organization, as the region’s minor league baseball team, offers quality entertainment to area residents. More importantly, though, it provides a means for improving the quality of life in the Great Lakes Bay Region.