CAA Driving Tank Engine

March 2, 2007
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GRAND RAPIDS — Members of the Convention and Arena Authority agreed last week to make DeVos Performance Hall a stop for Thomas the Tank Engine.

The live musical adaptation of the children's TV show will play the hall for at least two performances on either June 18 or 19, or possibly both days if tickets are selling well enough to warrant another show. And it's a first for the board.

"This is where we become the promoter ourselves," said Rich MacKeigan, CAA executive director and SMG general manager.

"The name, the product is very strong. We feel that the risk is moderate. We're looking at doing two shows, possibly three," he added.

MacKeigan said the CAA is risking from $35,000 to $40,000 by promoting the show. A pro forma put together by SMG Director of Finance Chris Machuta estimated the board's breakeven point as $53,500 and the profit from two sold-out performances as $38,200.

The CAA will also get a percentage of the merchandise sales from the shows.

"The merchandise alone is doing a huge, huge business," said MacKeigan.

Board members also gave MacKeigan the green light last week to begin putting together a wine, beer and food festival to be held at

DeVos Place
on a weekend in late summer or early fall of 2008. MacKeigan said it would be the only event of its kind in the state and would be a fundraiser for the CAA. The board would use the money from the event to make capital improvements to the convention center and Van Andel Arena.

"I'm excited. I think it will work," said CAA member Gary McInerney, who suggested the idea.

MacKeigan said he is hoping to get a lot of groups involved in the event, ranging from the local chamber to downtown restaurant owners and their distributors.

"There are wineries worldwide that do have a presence here," he said.

First, MacKeigan needs to find someone to produce the event and he hopes to have that accomplished within two months. Then he needs to put together a committee within the next three months to help him plan the event.

The local event would be based on the Ottawa Wine and Food Show held in Canada's capital city. That show had 200 exhibitors, drew 25,000 customers, and accounted for $200,000 in revenue.    

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