The Imperial Ballroom Is Back In Service
GRAND RAPIDS — Like parts of the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel itself, the hotel’s newly renovated Imperial Ballroom reflects the stately elegance of the mid-Victorian era.
Its unique features have made it the Amway Grand’s “easiest sell” in terms of bookings, said George Aquino, the hotel’s director of operations.
He said 35 wedding receptions were booked before the ballroom’s doors opened in April.
“Our wedding business, partly because of this room, has really increased,” he said.
The Imperial Ballroom is situated in the corner of the Amway Grand facing the intersection of Monroe Avenue and Pearl Street. The room dates from 1863, but at this point nobody at the hotel has had time to research its early history.
It had been leased for years by Michigan National Bank, which operated a branch at the location until last fall.
The ballroom ceiling is two stories high. A balcony wraps the entire second floor, with twin staircases leading from the balcony to the dance floor itself. The double-storied space of roughly 4,500 square feet is flanked by Corinthian columns.
Among the room’s highlights is its original wood-coffered ceiling with ornate, hand painted detail.
“The wood ceiling is really just amazing. As soon as you walk in the door, your eye is drawn right up to it,” said Lisa Simeone, vice president of hospitality design for Lieber Cooper Associates of Chicago, the architectural and interior design firm hired for the ballroom project.
“The ceiling and the chandeliers are the most impressive features of the room. I think what is so commanding is the scale of the space.”
The renovation involved disassembling, cleaning, rewiring and rebuilding the ballroom’s massive twin chandeliers — the room’s originals. Other features include a fireplace in the main room as well as one in an adjoining room on the main level.
Grand Rapids-based Pioneer Construction did the bank-to-ballroom remodeling.
At a banquet on Oct. 30 at the Amway Grand, Pioneer will receive an award of excellence from the Associated Builders and Contractors for the renovation work.
The Imperial Ballroom isn’t your typical banquet hall. Aquino said it’s a showcase for Grand Rapids and it’s definitely a showcase for the hotel.
“There’s nothing to compare to it in Michigan as far as a ballroom for the beauty of it. We like the fact that it’s in the corner of the building. The corner of Pearl and Monroe is a historic site; it’s the most photographed corner of downtown Grand Rapids. To have it sit right here gives it more meaning.”
Guests enter and exit the ballroom through the hotel’s lobby and that backdrop not only adds to its impressiveness but also creates additional photo opportunities, he observed. And guests can stay overnight at the hotel to top it all off.
Ideally, the Imperial Ballroom can accommodate 150 to 160 people, but it can accommodate more than 200 when the balcony space is put to use, Aquino noted.
Including the new Imperial Ballroom, the Amway Grand Plaza has 35 banquet rooms totaling 57,000 square feet of space. The hotel handles all food and beverage services for bookings of every kind.
In addition to the Imperial Ballroom, the Pantlind Ballroom continues to be a popular draw for wedding receptions, and the hotel’s Cygnus restaurant is growing in popularity for small, afternoon wedding receptions, Aquino said.