One of the biggest sporting events of summer begins tonite. Thousands of athletes are expected to participate in the fifth annual Meijer State Summer Games which kick off at Fifth Third Ballpark.

The Summer Games will feature 39 different sports, including eight new events this year. Some of the new sports include water skiing, bocce ball, and urban downhill skateboarding. Most sporting events are free to watch.

"The Meijer State Games of Michigan evokes such a strong sense of community and state pride in its participants, as well as the thousands of spectators who attend," said Doug Meijer, co-chairman of the Grand Rapids, Mich.-based retailer. "Meijer is strongly committed to helping the community become a better place to live, work and play, and we believe the State Games achieves that goal."

Opening ceremonies will be held at Fifth Third Ballpark in Comstock Park from 7-8 p.m. Friday. The free ceremony will include athlete check-in, the running of the 5k, and a parade. The program will also feature the Detroit Pistons Drumline, arrival of the torch, lighting of the cauldron, and skydivers (weather permitting).

The first 2,000 athletes to attend Opening Ceremonies and check-in will receive several sponsor giveaways.

The Meijer State Games are taking place June 20-22.

In 2013, the Meijer State Games Summer Games brought more than 6,500 athletes from 73 Michigan counties to West Michigan.

An independent economic impact survey revealed that Meijer State Games of Michigan participants spent an average of $483 per family and injected more than $2.7 million into the local economy.

http://woodtv.com/2014/06/20/meijer-state-games-kick-off-friday/