DeVos Place May Be Finished Faster

December 2, 2002
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GRAND RAPIDS — Whether the construction pace of the new DeVos Place should be accelerated is an issue that members of the Convention and Arena Authority are likely to decide this week.

The cost to do that has been pegged at $275,000. At stake is the largest tradeshow the city hosts and two more events not on the convention center's calendar.

Convention and Visitors Bureau President Steve Wilson recently told the CAA Finance Committee that if work on the building's exhibit halls was hastened by a month, then the new center could open with the Midwest Woodworking Expo. The current timetable has those halls being completed by the end of December 2003, and Wilson said that if these were finished by next Thanksgiving then the biannual tradeshow would come to Grand Rapids.

Wilson also noted that an earlier finish date would result in two December bookings that the building doesn't have now, as the Great Lakes Fruit, Vegetable and Farm Market and Gordon Food Service would rent the halls that month.

"We will be able to accommodate two more events and make December a very busy month at the center," said Wilson, while adding the three events were irreplaceable.

The woodworkers would bring 7,800 people to the expo, use nearly 2,500 hotel rooms in the county and deposit about $1 million in the local economic till. Wilson said the show is so large it would need all the 160,000 square feet that the Grand Gallery will offer, and would also use the new ballroom in its return visit in 2005.

Plus, the woodworking group has agreed to take part in the ceremonial opening of the facility and has made a donation to the construction fund to ease the acceleration cost.

"It's a good event to hit the floor running with. They've been a good client for us and the CVB," said Rich MacKeigan, SMG general manager of the convention center and the Van Andel Arena.

"It's just a perfect opening convention," said Steven Heacock, chairman of the Finance Committee.

Dale Sommers, DeVos Place project manager for the CAA, reported it would cost up to $275,000 to finish the exhibit halls about six weeks earlier. The cost includes an acceleration fee of $175,000 for the general contractor and $100,000 for overtime work. Sommers felt the builders would be able to meet the new deadline.

"A large key was getting the building enclosed, and we are there," he said.

The CVB will help defray the acceleration cost by giving $75,000 to it from its marketing budget, while hotels hosting the woodworkers will give another $10,000. Trade Shows Inc., the agent for the woodworking group, has offered to pay the rental rate of $125,000 up front and make a $45,000 donation to the acceleration pot.

The CAA Finance Committee agreed to the accelerated construction schedule and to contribute the remaining $20,000 to cover the $275,000 tab. But both actions need to be ratified by the full board, which meets Wednesday.

Summers said the $220 million project was $84,000 under budget at this point. He added that all the bids for the final leg of construction were in and that $7 million worth of the phase's $51 million price tag has been awarded.

Construction on the new DeVos Place should be fully completed in January 2005.           

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