Matinee Idols

June 21, 2002
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Remember when the World Series was played during the day, and every kid in school had a transistor radio? Remember when Wrigley Field didn’t even have lights? Remember when college football games were done by suppertime — and played only on Saturdays?

The Grand Rapids Griffins do.

Now the team’s marketing machine is rolling out a little mid-day magic with next week Tuesday’s first non-holiday weekday matinee in the 66-year history of the American Hockey League.

That’s right, the Griffins will take the ice against the Chicago Wolves at noon. On a Tuesday. At Van Andel Arena in downtown Grand Rapids. While most of us are working and our children are in school.

Or at least supposed to be at work and school.

Will Grand Rapids turn into Hookytown West?

That’s the goal of Mayor JohnLogie, whohas proclaimed Nov. 13 to be “Two Hour Lunch Day.” Businesses that purchase six or more tickets to the game for their employees or customers will receive a $5 Van Andel Arena food voucher for each member of their group. In addition, the Griffins will donate $2 from each ticket to God’s Kitchen to help feed the hungry during the Thanksgiving holiday.

But if you’re going to play hockey hooky, expect some young company.

The Griffins are touting the event as “hockey recess” and are encouraging schools to join in the fun.

“We already have 2,000 tickets committed to school groups that day, and we’ll have specific events going on for both high school and elementary students,” said RandyCleves, director of media relations.

He said between 600 and 800 high school students will participate in a sports marketing career workshop from 10:30-11:30 a.m.

“The response has been so great that we will hold two concurrent sessions — one in the Van Andel Arena banquet rooms and a second in either The BOB or the Courtyard Marriott.”

Elementary students also can make the rounds to various interactive displays on the concourse concentrating on subjects such as math (i.e., the freezing point of water), science (stick materials), reading (broadcasting/media relations), geography (AHL team locations) and physical education (training room).

In fact, Cleves said, students will be presented with a quiz that they must complete during the game, focusing on aspects of hockey and what they learn through the displays and video presentations.

“This should be an event unlike any other that the Griffins have hosted or that this city has seen,” Cleves said.

  • West Michigan’s influence on journalism worldwide is growing.

Former WXMI Fox-17 General Manager PatMullen, who is now president of the broadcasting group for Tribune Television in Chicago, and former local PR ace RickKamel, who is living in Chicago, hooked up last week on a speaking engagement for 11 Russian newspaper publishers who are traveling throughout the country visiting various newspapers.

Mullen enlisted Kamel to speak at Tribune Towers last Wednesday on the subject of “In Search of Journalistic Justice.”

Stop snickering.

“It should be kind of cool,” Kamel said, adding that Huntington Bank also helped arrange the meeting. “There will also be some university students there and, I would imagine, probably some Tribune staffers.”

Kamel, by the way, has left his position as marketing vice president with General Growth Properties (the RiverTown Crossings people) and is striking out on his own. For now, he expects to split time between his place in Chicago and his home here in GR.

Look for him to return full-time to Grand Rapids sometime after the first of the year.

“This is where home is,” he said. “You really come to appreciate West Michigan once you’ve left.”

  • If everyone were this straightforward, there certainly would be less need for public relations practitioners.

BobBasten, president and CEO of Centerprise Advisors, was recently commenting on the Chicago-based consolidator’s low profile in the deal-making arena for the past year.

“We don’t have to do acquisitions to be successful. What sense is it in just throwing together a bunch of firms, just for the sake of making news that we are acquiring firms?”

Amen, brother.

  • Sometimes, however, making news can be a good thing.

A recent announcement from the Michigan Economic Development Corp. lauded the progress Michigan’s SmartZones are making.

Zones from Grand Rapids to Kalamazoo and Washtenaw to Michigan Tech all were praised for their hard work in establishing technology-friendly environments.

Almost as an afterthought, the Muskegon SmartZone got all of this recognition: “This Zone recently announced the creation of the Lakeshore Launch Pad, an incubator facility for technology-based companies.”

End of announcement.

Business Journal readers wanting more information, however, need look no further than the front page of last week’s Lakeshore section, which carried a story involving the principals of two technology companies already up and running.

The story paints a little brighter picture and validates Muskegon’s effort, which is certainly worthy of more than just one sentence.

  • Hunger is no laughing matter, but tackling tough issues with a little humor sprinkled in is always appreciated.

JohnArnold, executive director of Second Harvest Gleaners Food Bank of West Michigan Inc., has a goal of ending hunger in West Michigan by 2007. And he’s enlisting some unusual help.

“If you’ve noticed that a lot of the beer trucks around town are disappearing, it’s because I’m buying them all,” he said. “They make great mobile food pantries and they’re very cheap when they’re used.”

Now that he’s got the food-on-wheels problem on the run, Arnold is setting his sights on changing the way people donate to the food pantry. Churches and individuals often buy cans of food at full price and then donate them to Second Harvest. But donating that cash spent on food (at full price) actually can have a greater impact when given directly to the food bank, which can then leverage that money about 20 times more effectively.

“There are 1,100 churches here and we’re trying to change their traditions, which is why it’s taking a while,” he said. “If you’ve ever tried to get a church to change its traditions, it’s difficult.”  

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