Arena Board Caught In A Costly Net

August 23, 2002
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GRAND RAPIDS — Members of the Convention and Arena Authority will learn a brand new definition of the business term “net worth” when they meet this week.

What they will discover at their regular board meeting on Wednesday is that two nets to cover both ends of the ice rink at Van Andel Arena will be worth from $60,000 to $90,000. That “net worth” is the cost range they face in order to comply with an unfunded mandate issued by the American Hockey League.

All AHL rinks, such as the arena, are required to have protective netting installed above the glass in each corner and behind both end zones before the season begins. The Grand Rapids Griffins, an AHL franchise, opens its seventh season at the arena on Oct. 12.

The black netting will stretch about 140 feet from corner to corner on each end of the rink. The nets will be attached to the top of the boards, just below the glass, and will rise about 20 feet high. The idea is to protect spectators from getting hit by a puck.

Jim Watt of SMG, the firm that manages the arena, told the Operations Committee of the CAA last Wednesday that netting systems run between $35,000 and $105,000. He added that the lower-priced systems must to be raised and lowered by hand each time these have to go up or come down, and are recommended for a building solely dedicated to hockey.

But he said for buildings like the arena, which have a variety of events in addition to hockey, the least expensive systems won’t do.

“The key to keep in mind here is not the netting, but the conversion going from hockey one night to a concert the next night,” said Rich MacKeigan, arena manager.

Watt said a decent motorized netting system for the arena starts at $60,000, and can run as high as $90,000. He felt the CAA could get a suitable one for around $65,000.

The CAA, however, may not have to foot the entire bill. Some at the meeting thought the Griffins may have to pick up at least a portion of the tab under provision in the team’s lease agreement. Dan and Pamella DeVos and David Van Andel own the AHL club.

Following the lead of the National Hockey League, the AHL ordered the netting installed after a 13-year-old girl was hit in the head by a ricocheting puck at an NHL game in Columbus, Ohio, last spring and died two days later.

In addition to the netting, AHL President David Andrew also stipulated that the glass around all rinks must be at least five feet high. But that order doesn’t affect the arena. At Van Andel, the glass is six feet high along the sides and eight feet high behind the goalie nets.           

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