MARQUETTE - Michigan residents looking to purchase a United States Olympic Education Center license plate for their vehicles may notice a different design than they're used to.
Secretary of State Ruth Johnson, along with Olympic gymnastics gold medalist Jordyn Wieber, announced the availability of the new plate recently.
"Michigan has strong connections to the U.S. Olympic program, including world-class training facilities and extraordinary athletes and coaches," Johnson said in a written statement. "Olympic heroes like Jordyn Wieber, Allison Schmitt, Claressa Shields, Betsey Armstrong and even Michael Phelps have lived and trained in our state on their way to gold medals. I encourage anyone who wants to support Team USA to buy and proudly display one of these license plates."
With the USOEC currently located at Northern Michigan University, the Olympic training that takes place in Michigan hits a little closer to home for area residents.
Michigan has already been selling USOEC plates since the mid 1990s, said NMU Director of Communications and Marketing Cindy Paavola. In fact, the USOEC plate was the first specialized plate to be sold in the state, she said.
Now, however, other states are beginning to jump on the Olympics bandwagon, and the United States Olympic Committee would like Olympic license plates to have a more uniform look, Paavola said.
"Other states are doing specialty plates too, so what the United State Olympic Committee wanted was a standard plate that was similar from state to state to state, supporting the overall Olympic movement, not just the USOEC, which in Michigan makes sense, but in other states, it doesn't," Paavola said.
The old plates had a legal citation and the words "U.S. Olympic Education Center" under the Olympic rings symbol, along with the phrase "Olympic Spirit" at the bottom. More than 75,000 of the tax-deductible plates have been sold and renewed in the state, generating more than $2 million.
For each sale of the new, $35 plate, $25 benefits student athletes training at the USOEC. When the plates are renewed, the additional $10 goes entirely to the USOEC as well.
Michigan is one of 11 states to currently offer a license plate benefiting the U.S. Olympic program.
Jackie Stark can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.