Grand Center Expansion To Cost More
GRAND RAPIDS — Members of the Convention and Arena Authority (CAA) will get the details Wednesday on why the $200 million Grand Center expansion project will cost more than originally estimated. At the same time, the board will also learn that more money has been found to put toward the higher price tag.
The latest estimate, revealed late last week, places the cost at another 5 to 10 percent above the figure released four years ago — meaning the project is likely to run between $210 and $220 million.
One reason for the increase is inflation, which has risen at a faster rate in the construction industry than the general economy. Another is that the sewer work along Monroe Avenue ended up costing twice what was initially expected. The Downtown Development Authority (DDA) allocated $5 million for that work. But the final tab was closer to $10 million.
Board members, however, will also hear some good news on Wednesday.
To offset the increases, Kent County Commission Chairman Steve Heacock said the county will contribute more money to the project from its lodging excise tax fund. Initially the county pledged $73 million over 20 years. Now it looks like the county will give at least $84 million — and possibly up to $90 million — to the project over the next 25 years.
“It really means that the whole tax is going for this project and the Convention and Visitors Bureau,” said Heacock, who also chairs the CAA. He added that there was little that could be cut from the project that would result in significant savings.
The Grand Action Committee, the group raising private-sector funds for the project, is also expected to give the board some positive news on its fundraising effort. Exactly what that news is, however, remains unknown.
In addition, DDA member Verne Barry has spoken with that body’s Priority Committee about increasing the board’s investment in the project.
“I’m looking to see if we have some more room to help without harming any of our other commitments,” he said. “I think we can do something, and maybe something substantial.”
CAA members will have firmer financial figures at their meeting this week. The board needs to approve the budget changes and to agree that the construction documents can be done. Both steps are needed so the work can go out to bid. All the work north of DeVos Hall has to be bid by late this year, while the work south of the building must be bid by late 2002, if the project is to be finished by December 2004.
“We still have a lot of time to adjust things,” said Dale Sommers, who is managing the project for the CAA.
Sommers added that another cost estimate could be coming around July. But he felt the bids would come in near the updated estimate because construction activity is winding down locally, and more companies will be able to bid on the project. Plus, he said, a lot of firms want to be involved in the work and that doing so would look good on their resumes.
“This is the largest project this city has ever seen,” said Sommers.
The CAA owns and operates the Grand Center, the area’s convention facility, and the Van Andel Arena.