Wesleyans Bringing Big Convention

June 7, 2004
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GRAND RAPIDS — Downtown will be a little more crowded than usual two weeks from today, as the largest convention to meet at DeVos Place will be underway then.

The Wesleyan Church will bring 4,000 delegates and its Quadrennial General Conference to the new convention center from June 19-23. Delegates are coming from the United States and 52 countries to make the Wesleyan meeting the largest religious gathering ever held in Grand Rapids.

The conference is so large that in addition to the main exhibit hall being divided into sections for meetings of the legislative assembly, religious services, and exhibit booths, delegates also will use meeting rooms in DeVos Place and the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel.

“This beautiful new facility is fulfilling our needs to hold meetings simultaneously in different parts of the building,” said Wesleyan Church General Secretary Ronald Kelly.

Kelly added that the conference has booked all downtown hotel rooms, along with others in the metro area. The Convention and Visitors Bureau estimated the attendees would spend roughly $1.46 million here during their five-day stay.

“We are looking forward to making this our largest conference ever,” said Kelly.

CVB Vice President of Sales George Helmstead recently told the Convention and Arena Authority that his staff has booked 110 conventions and trade shows for DeVos Place in the coming years. He noted that the Michigan Music Teachers Association will hold its annual meeting here starting in 2006 through 2010. The group normally meets in Ann Arbor.

Helmstead said he also was reorganizing his department so its personnel could focus on religious, hobby, and sports associations, groups most interested in meeting here.

Helmstead also remarked that the CVB was close to hiring a sales representative based in Washington, D.C. All that was standing in the way of completing the deal was finding an East Coast bureau willing to share the cost. Pasadena, Calif., has already agreed to join the local bureau in that effort.    

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