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Published in Economic Development
Pro Volleyball Federation CEO Jen Spicher speaks alongside DP Fox Sports & Entertainment executives during the unveiling of the league’s first team that will play at Van Andel Arena. Pro Volleyball Federation CEO Jen Spicher speaks alongside DP Fox Sports & Entertainment executives during the unveiling of the league’s first team that will play at Van Andel Arena. PHOTO BY ANDY BALASKOVITZ

Grand Rapids first market announced for new professional women’s volleyball league

BY Monday, December 05, 2022 12:25pm

GRAND RAPIDS — A new professional U.S. women’s volleyball league that’s set to launch in 2024 has tapped Grand Rapids as its first market, team owners and league executives announced today.

DP Fox Sports & Entertainment, which co-owns the Grand Rapids Griffins and previously owned an Arena Football League team, today joined Pro Volleyball Federation officials at Van Andel Arena, where the as-yet unnamed team will play.

“We’re very proud to bring women’s professional sports here to Grand Rapids and Van Andel Arena,” DP Fox co-owner Dan DeVos said. “West Michigan and the Midwest is a hotbed for this sport.”

Announced last month, the Pro Volleyball Federation aims to debut eight to 10 teams in its inaugural 16-week season. 

League CEO Jen Spicher, who attended today’s announcement, said players will earn a base minimum salary of $60,000 — a “living wage” meant to provide a career for amateur or collegiate volleyball players in a professional league.

“I’ve been telling people for quite some time that this is the exact right thing at the exact right time, and now we’re convinced Grand Rapids is the exact right place,” Spicher said. “This is an absolute dream come true for me.”

For DP Fox, owning the professional volleyball team is a return to working with Dave Whinham, president and CEO of The TEAM Management LLC and a co-founder of the Pro Volleyball Federation. Whinham is a former coach and administrator in the Arena Football League.

DeVos said he had kept in touch with Whinham about an opportunity in this new league.

“We talked about different opportunities. This one was coming together real nice and seemed like a nice fit for us,” DeVos said in an interview. “Since we have that long history with (Whinham), we were comfortable moving forward with the new league.”

DeVos added that “we had confidence” in the sport when pursuing an ownership opportunity.

“Then the structure of the league being a little bit different and able to pay the players a nice wage fit in very well, and the fact that we could bring a women’s professional sports team to Grand Rapids is also really exciting for us,” he said.

The Pro Volleyball Federation includes former professional football quarterback Trent Dilfer as a founding partner. The league will be primarily run by women, including Spicher and Cecile Reynaud, a member of the USA Volleyball Hall of Fame who spent 26 years as the head coach at Florida State University and will serve as vice president of volleyball operations.

Spicher hopes to announce the remaining teams by the end of February of 2023 to give the league a full year to prepare for launching. The league will eventually draft former college players and potentially U.S. players who currently play professionally in Europe under sports visas.

The league’s regular season will consist of 16 matches in the inaugural year. Rosters will include 14 players, and the league expects to have at least three national game of the week windows on major broadcast networks, according to an announcement. Officials say the first-year base salaries are similar to those of current first-year Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) players.

Spicher said today’s announcement follows “two years of painstakingly hard work” to put the professional league together.

“You’re pulling together league owners, investors, sponsors, media and venues,” Spicher said in an interview. “It’s a significant undertaking and it means the world to be here and with the DeVos family. It’s just groundbreaking for women’s sports, and I’m so excited to deliver this league to gals like me who got out of college and had to hang up the knee pads. That was sad.”

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