DeVos Performance Curtain Rising

August 30, 2004
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GRAND RAPIDS — Although it opened in 1980, DeVos Performance Hall certainly won’t look and feel like a building that is ready to turn 25 years old when it reopens next week.

“It’s going to be one of the most striking things that people will see,” said Rich MacKeigan, general manager for SMG, the firm that handles daily operations at the hall.

The second of two renovations to the 2,459-seat fine arts auditorium will finish soon, a few days before the Grand Rapids Symphony re-christens the new hall with the first public performances in the building since its closing on Memorial Day.

The symphony will present its “Tour de Force” program on Sept. 10 and 11.

But symphony goers won’t be the first to get the initial peek at how the latest renovation has transformed the hall, as that honor will go to the individuals who donated $5 million to the Grand Action Committee fundraiser held to upgrade the public home of four of the city’s arts tenants.

Jon Nunn, Grand Action executive director, said a private evening reception would be held soon to honor those who funded the project. The lead gift came from the Richard and Helen DeVos Foundation, which also provided the lead gift for the construction of

DeVos Place
, the city’s new convention center that houses the performance hall.

Other major gifts came from the Jay and Betty Van Andel Foundation, the Peter Wege Foundation, the Frey Foundation, Fred and Lena Meijer, Chuck and Stella Royce, and Stan and Margaret Chef.

“This plan elevates the DeVos Performance Hall interior so it is consistent with the new lobby and with

DeVos Place
as a whole,” said David Frey, Grand Action co-chairman and past Convention and Arena Authority (CAA) board member.

“Thanks to the generosity and foresight of our lead donors and several other generous members of this community, this entire renovation is being funded with private dollars,” he added.

Dale Sommers, who is the CAA representative for the renovation work, told the Business Journal the project was on budget, on time, and should wrap up by Labor Day.

Part of the effort includes work to the Keeler Lobby. The restrooms behind the lobby have been redone, while the lobby itself has new carpeting, repainted handrails, and a new elevator that is ADA-compliant, which means that more people with disabilities will be able to reach the orchestra level.

Cameras and large flat video screens have been installed, giving patrons a chance to view and hear a performance throughout the performance hall.

The box-seating areas have been restyled and a new lighter woodwork has been added to the building. And the seats in the acoustically tuned auditorium have been redone at a cost of $750,000.

“All the metal stands were refurbished by Irwin Seating and then all the seats, backs and arms are all brand new, with new upholstery and a new color for the entire 2,459, I think it is, seats,” said Sommers.

“Everything came in at or under budget,” he added.

Progressive AE designed the hall’s renovation, while Erhardt-Hunt managed the work. Joe Erhardt, president of Erhardt Construction, said work may finish by Friday. If not, he said it would be done by Labor Day, for sure.

Sommers added that the hall’s roof will be replaced. He said that work is set to start on Sept. 14 and wouldn’t interfere with any of the performances.

Two years ago, DeVos Hall got a new lobby as part of the convention center expansion. That project installed a new terrazzo floor, a new box office with an outside window, a new marquee, and new restrooms on the second and third floors.

Each year the auditorium hosts more than 150 events with most being offered by its four tenants — the symphony, the GR Ballet Company, Opera GR, and the Broadway Theatre Guild.

The fiscal year forecast from SMG, the building’s manager, projects that 174 events will be held there through next June and income from those events will be worth more than $880,000 during FY05 — a figure expected to be $225,000 higher than it was in FY04.

After its season opener, the symphony is back in the hall from Sept. 17-19 with noted impressionist Rich Little. The theater guild then opens its Broadway show season and rounds out the month’s performances with “Cirque Dreams” on Sept. 22-26.    

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