MUSKEGON, Mich. — 10 hockey teams and 200-families from around the country arrived in Muskegon Thursday for the start of the Little Caesars Shoreline Invitational. The tournament features several of the best 12-year-old players representing hockey teams from Chicago, Dallas, St. Louis, Pittsburgh and Buffalo. Three teams from Chicago and three from Detroit are also participating in the tournament.
"These kids are the best top talent at their age bracket," said tournament organizer Trevor Johnson. The team's compete at the AAA Major level.
Johnson says the Mercy Health Arena in downtown Muskegon is a perfect venue for the tournament in part because it's connected to a full-service hotel.
Players and families can make the short indoor walk from the Delta hotel into the Mercy Health Arena in just two or three minutes.
"In the summer months you can walk down the street but when it get cold, or rainy it's such a benefit," said Johnson.
The walk between the hotel and arena takes players and their families through the new VanDyk Mortgage Convention Center.
The City of Muskegon invested millions of dollars in arena improvements over the last five years. Johnson who played hockey for the Muskegon Fury says now the arena stands out when compared to others that host tournaments similar to the Little Caesars Shoreline Invitational.
"I'm blown away with what they've done," said Johnson. "It's way more of a family atmosphere."
When it comes to attracting new events to the arena city leaders like Muskegon's City Manager Frank Peterson have set a lofty goal.
"Our target is really every weekend to have events at the arena," said Peterson. "Here in Muskegon we have something special and we need to capitalize on it. A nice hotel and a great facility is what these parents want."
Most of the families participating in the hockey tournament are staying at either the Delta hotel or the Shoreline Inn, Muskegon-based Parkland Properties owns both hotels. At the Delta alone more than 140 rooms are reserved from Thursday to Saturday night for hockey families.
"Something like this that will fill our hotels, our bars, our restaurants is really an asset to our businesses," said Parkland Properties Director of Hotels
Lisa Grossenbacher. "Gives us an opportunity to highlight our beautiful city."
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