Largest Fleet Ever Sailing To DeVos

February 4, 2005
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GRAND RAPIDS — Although it will be the 60th Annual Boat Show that opens this week, it will be the first one to have so much docking space.

The longest-running consumer show produced by Showspan Inc. will fill

DeVos Place
and then sail into the new 40,000-square-foot ballroom, making it the largest show of its kind in city history.

"The christening of the new ballroom at

DeVos Place
has given us more than another full acre of display area. We are now over 200,000 square feet," said Henri Boucher, event manager for Showspan.

A record number of 42 dealers, a dozen more than last year, will be on hand for the show that runs from Wednesday through Sunday. All those dealers will haul 400 new boats from almost 100 manufacturers into

DeVos Place
.

The dealers at the Boat Show are a portion of the 800 exhibitors that Showspan annually brings to the downtown convention center for its five-show run. Showspan President John Loeks recently told the Convention and Arena Authority, which owns

DeVos Place
, that 160,000 consumers will attend this year's shows that end on March 20 with the Sport, Fishing and Travel Show.

Loeks also told the CAA that last year's Boat Show had an economic impact of $26.9 million, while drawing more than 26,000 consumers. Loeks also said moving into

DeVos Place
last year increased attendance for the Boat Show by 60 percent and enlarged the square footage of exhibitor space at the event by 37 percent.

"It's our exhibitor space that measures our true success," said Loeks.

But Loeks said the show that may have benefited most from leaving the smaller GrandCenter for the larger

DeVos Place
was the Michigan International Auto Show. Auto Show attendance rose by 22 percent last year, while the exhibitor space grew by 45 percent.

"Our local car dealers benefit directly from the show, or so they tell me," he said.

This week marine dealers from throughout the Midwest will use the show much like the auto dealers used theirs — to kick off, or shove off, rather, the 2005 selling season.

Both power and sailboat dealers are hoping for a fast start on the new season, after many had a good one last year. Dealers usually make a third to a half of their sales each year during the boat-show season.

"We enjoyed a record sales year in 2004. We're excited about the increased interest in sailing; 2005 could be a big year," said Don Pollard, owner of Pollard's Landing in Holland

"We're expecting a very good year. Interest rates remain low and the economy is rebounding," said Jerry Brouwer, manager of Action Water Sports in Hudsonville.

The National Marine Manufacturers Association reported a 4 percent rise in new powerboat sales nationally through the third quarter of last year from the same period in 2003, which represented a 17 percent increase in dollar sales. Michigan ranks near the top in the nation for boat sales each year.

Show admission is $8 for adults, $4 for children ages 6 to 15, while kids ages 5 and younger are admitted for free.

"The Boat Show is the first time the public can see this beautiful hall that is perched overlooking the Grand River," said Boucher. "Not only will patrons find scores of boats here, the ballroom is the perfect spot for our Key West Crab Shack, too. That's where special features and boating lifestyle parties occur all five days of the show."    

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