TwoTime ArenaBowl Winner To
Run Arena Retail Store

July 9, 2007
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GRAND RAPIDS — The former general manager of the Orlando Predators, an Arena Football League franchise, is taking over operations of The Zone, the sports merchandise retail space located on the west side of Van Andel Arena.

Jeffrey Bouchy, who won the AFL’s ArenaBowl twice while in Orlando, owns Destroyer Merchandising Co. He recently signed a four-year agreement to sublease the space from DP Fox Ventures, which owns a majority share of the Grand Rapids Griffins and all of the Grand Rapids Rampage.

Bouchy said he is aiming for a September opening, around the time the Griffins put individual game tickets on sale to the public. But he’ll be in The Zone next week redesigning the store, which has been closed since the Griffins season ended.

“We’re probably going to bring in about 30 hat styles, a huge variety,” Bouchy said. “From what I’ve heard, that is what the store has been lacking in the past. We’re going to have a bunch of new apparel.”

Bouchy’s manufacturing business Destroyer Graphics screen prints and embroiders T-shirts, sweatshirts and polo shirts. Through the lease agreement, Destroyer has the licensing rights to use the logos of the Griffins, Rampage, the American Hockey League and the Arena Football League on its apparel.

“We’re really going to have a good youth line and a good women’s line. It’s not just going to be a men’s store,” said Bouchy.

In addition to his manufacturing and merchandising businesses, Bouchy also owns a promotional company. Destroyer Promotional Products imports and exports sports-related items such as bobble heads, and those will be sold at The Zone.

Bouchy started his merchandising business more than a decade ago, the import firm five years ago and added the manufacturing division last March.

“It just seemed that the next natural progression of the company is to get into the concessionaire business,” he said.

Bouchy has known Rampage executives since his days in the Orlando front office, which ran from 1998 through 2002. When he heard that DP Fox and Jeff Gebben decided not to renew their sublease contract, Bouchy told DP Fox Vice President and CEO Tim Gortsema that he was interested in operating the store.

“We’re really excited about this,” Bouchy said. “You guys are going to be like the Red Wings to us. Grand Rapids is going to be our flagship hockey store. This is going to be the best merchandise store in the American Hockey League.

“Fans are going to see a ton of product and a ton of varying product. We’re going to mix it up, and we’re going to bring in new stuff all the time, so what is there in September won’t be there for the whole season.”

The Zone won’t be the first retail outlet Destroyer manages. The company, which is based in St. Augustine, Fla., began operating the Sacramento (Calif.) Rivercats store, a Triple A baseball team, this season. Bouchy said he wants to expand his retail business and is looking at a few other markets. He has begun talks with a franchise in Illinois to manage that team’s store.

“The business has been around for 10 or 12 years. I know some of the folks,” said Lew Chamberlin, managing partner of the West Michigan Whitecaps and a board member of the Convention and Arena Authority, which approved the sublease agreement.

Chamberlin was referring to Joel Koch and Jami Dock, who both worked for the Whitecaps and are now employed by Destroyer. Koch is the company’s national sales manager, while Dock is the firm’s project manager.

The sublease runs through Aug. 31, 2011. Destroyer Merchandise Co. will pay DP Fox either $1,000 a month or 8 percent of the net monthly sales revenue, whichever is greater, for the space.

“Both teams, the Griffins and Rampage, are excited about the deal. And if they’re excited, I am, too, as their landlord,” said Rich MacKeigan, the SMG general manager who oversees daily operations at the arena.

In addition to running the Predators, Bouchy managed the AFL2 Peoria Pirates. He also worked in college athletics, minor league hockey and arena management. Bouchy won the ArenaBowl, the AFL’s top prize, as Orlando’s GM in 1998 and 2000, and his team played in the 1999 title game.

“The one I remember most, though, is the one we lost in 1999. We would have had three straight years, but we lost in ’99. You guys won it in ‘01,” he said. “As a GM, I think I was 0-3 against the Rampage. I don’t know what it was, but we could not beat Grand Rapids.”     

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