Business Comes First

August 12, 2005
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GRAND RAPIDS — The Grand Rapids Griffins are counting down the days to Oct. 8, the opening home date for the American Hockey League franchise’s 10th season.

But a bit of scrambling by the team’s business office is necessary to get to opening night, as their plans changed when the Detroit Red Wings moved its annual Red and White game from Van Andel Arena to the Michigan State Fairgrounds.

Griffins Vice President of Sales and Marketing Bob Sack said Jeep Chrysler was to be the sponsor of the Red Wings game. But like last year when the charity event was cancelled due to the NHL labor dispute, the Griffins’ front office again has to find another event or series of events that meets the needs of one of the club’s biggest sponsors.

The Hockeytown Heroes promotion filled the bill last season when the Griffins and Jeep Chrysler gave fans the chance to meet four former Red Wings at the arena.

“We basically adjusted them to the Hockeytown Heroes. They’ve been a great partner and we will be working with them to come up with another series, some type of a concept. We don’t know what that is yet, but we will figure that out,” said Sack.

Adjustments also need to be made for the club’s ticket buyers. Tickets to the Red and White game were included in the season-ticket and mini-plan packages the team sold, and Sack said those buyers would be given three options from which to choose in return for the game not being played here.

“One will be a refund for the Red Wings tickets. The second is making a charitable donation to the Youth Foundation. The third one is an entertainment package that will be very attractive from a value standpoint,” said Sack.

Last season’s entertainment package consisted of tickets to two additional Griffins games, a ticket to a Sunday afternoon Grand Rapids Rampage contest, and a discount coupon to the Griffins and Rampage retail store, The Zone, for each Red and White ticket a fan bought.

“Most people took that last year, and that is the kind of deal that we’re putting together now,” said Sack.

Ticket buyers will have until Nov. 1 to make their choice from the trio of offerings.

The 10th anniversary season will also feature a “10 special nights” promotion. Details of what will happen on those nights haven’t been released yet, but each night is likely to have a corporate sponsor.

“We’ve got corporate sponsors attached to most of those already, and we anticipate this may be one of our strongest sponsorship years ever,” said Sack.

Since the Griffins first took to the arena ice on Oct. 11, 1996, the building’s turnstiles have clicked 3.27 million times. The three-millionth customer came through the doors last Feb. 26. It was an entrance that made the risk West Michigan Hockey Inc. took in January 1995 — when the fledgling company announced pro hockey was coming to town — more than worthwhile.

“With just a handful of personnel, West Michigan Hockey Inc. began operations with no nickname, no league, no players, no coaches, no general manager and an unfinished arena,” said Dan DeVos, who owns the Griffins with his wife, Pamella, and with David Van Andel.

“However, we quickly discovered one thing that we did have in abundance,” he added. “Hockey fans.”    

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