Prince Center Booked And Opening Soon

September 6, 2002
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GRAND RAPIDS — One of the community’s newest meeting and convention centers still is a month from completion — and it’s already booked solid through December.

It’s the Prince Conference Center at Calvin College, operating under the management of Kim Stanton, sales manager, Justin Jackson, the hotel manager, and their boss Henry DeVries, the college’s vice president for finance, administration and information services.

Stanton and Jackson worked previously for the Haworth Center in Holland.

Now they're getting ready for the October opening of a facility with numerous conference, meeting and dining areas plus 66 hotel-style guest rooms and three suites.

The center is sited beside and overlooks the college’s Ecosystem Preserve, a 90-acre setting of woods and wetlands with a series of trails for observers. It also lies a short walk from the main Calvin campus via the new Calvin's Crossing footbridge, which traverses the East Beltline.

The pace of reservations seems to bear out Stanton’s feeling that the new facility will be a popular spot for conferences, sales meetings, social celebrations and more.

Reservations for this year, she said, include three large wedding receptions and conferences. “We are busy right up to Christmas, but then typically we have a quiet period between Christmas and New Year’s, and then right after the first of the year.”

She said the center already has an encouraging number of engagements for next spring.

Stanton told the Business Journal a number of area businesses have contacted her to get reservation information as word about the center has trickled out.

She stressed that while the center is part of the college, it is available for general public use.

The Prince Conference Center is actually two buildings connected by an atrium.

One building holds meeting spaces, including a room with seating for up to 400 people, several others for 80 to 100 people and also smaller rooms for groups from 20 to 50.  The other building is the lodging facility with 69 guest rooms.

To Stanton, the visual highlight of the center will be two mammoth dual-sided fieldstone fireplaces in the great hall. “It doesn’t matter which door you come in,” she said, “your first sight is going to be one of those fireplaces.”

Currently, she said, they’re girded with thick plastic film to protect them during the last dusty and disruptive stages of construction.

“We don’t want anything to hurt them,” she said. “They’re just going to be magnificent.”

She said she believes the center offers its guests the excitement of a college campus together with the tranquility of a retreat. She said guests can take in concerts, sporting events and lectures on the campus, or explore malls, restaurants and theaters on 28th Street. 

“We're on a college campus, with all that has to offer, but we have a hotel-style facility  close to everything: downtown, 28th Street, the airport. Plus the (Ecosystem) Preserve is just a gem. We can't wait to start hosting people.”

Calvin will hold a dedication service for the Prince Conference Center and the DeVos Communication Center on Oct. 25 and 26. 

The two new buildings are being funded by the two largest gifts in the history of Calvin College. Both the Richard and Helen DeVos Foundation and the Edgar and Elsa Prince Foundation committed an aggregate of $20 million to the projects.

“The DeVos and Prince families are long-time supporters of Christian education,” said Calvin College’s president, Gaylen Byker, at the time the gifts were announced four years ago.

“Their support of these two new ventures means a great deal to all of us at Calvin. We are very grateful.”

Elsa Prince is a 1954 Calvin graduate. Richard DeVos is a 1947 Calvin alum and winner of the school's 1982 Distinguished Alumni Award. His wife Helen also graduated with the Class of ’47.

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