Arena, DeVos Place rated as prime sites

August 31, 2009
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Members of the respective industries saw both Van Andel Arena and DeVos Place as prime sites this year, but only one had an operating surplus for the fiscal year.

Facilities magazine recently gave Van Andel Arena a 2008 Prime Site Award, an honor based on opinions that came from booking agents, promoters, talent buyers and special-events planners.

“The award recognizes venue excellence — a criteria that includes the structural dynamics of a building, the level of technology of its sound, lighting, staging, and the quality of the venue staff. All these components are integral to the success of the performance and the audience experience,” said Timothy Herrick, editorial director of the magazine.

DeVos Place also was recognized: Facilities and Destinations magazine gave the convention center a 2009 Prime Site Award. The building earned the honor based on comments made by association, corporate and independent meeting planners and trade show managers.

“These awards always acknowledge quality in terms of service, the facility and the personnel at each venue and destination. But I would say that this particular group of award winners is above and beyond because they were able to provide quality in an economic environment filled with cutbacks and uncertainty. These are people who delivered under unusually tough circumstances,” Michael Caffin, the magazine’s associate publisher.

Both buildings are managed by the Convention and Arena Authority. SMG, under the direction of Regional General Manager Rich MacKeigan, oversees the daily operations at both venues.

“It’s definitely an honor. The biggest reason is the people that vote for this are the people that host meetings, host concerts, host events. So it is the end-user that is dictating whether you’re worthy of this or not,” said MacKeigan, who added that the awards were a testament to the SMG staff at both buildings. “It’s a point of pride.”

Although DeVos Place held 532 events and drew an attendance of 538,973 for the fiscal year that ended June 30, the convention center lost $521,235 for the year. That figure is roughly $57,500 higher than last year’s deficit when the it hosted 595 events attended by 648,478 people.

Event income was down by $225,000 last year from the previous year. Ancillary income for the year was off by $213,000 from FY08. But expenses were lower, by $338,000, compared to the previous year.

Conventions and tradeshows accounted for 35 percent of the total event income, while consumer shows provided 22 percent of that revenue. Event income totaled $4.4 million, but $5.1 million was expected for the fiscal year.

“While the ancillary revenue wasn’t there, there wasn’t a significant drop in the activity level and that gives me hope. If the activity level is there as things correct themselves, then the ancillary revenue will also go up,” said MacKeigan.

The arena kept up its continuous streak of recording at least a $1 million-surplus for the fiscal year; revenue topped expenses last year by $1.35 million. Despite maintaining the million-dollar revenue mark that the building has reached since it opened in 1996, the year-end surplus was down by $267,000 from last year.

The arena hosted 115 events in FY09, just three fewer than in FY08. But total attendance last year, 597,628, was off by almost 67,000 from the previous year’s mark of 664,317, which resulted in event income falling $374,000 short of FY08.

Ancillary income was also down by $184,000, but expenses were lower by $216,000.

Nineteen concerts accounted for 40 percent of the arena’s event income, which totaled nearly $3.1 million for the year. Almost $3.4 million in event income was expected for the year at the start of the fiscal year.

“We continue to do well against our competition. The fact that the Griffins’ attendance was up double digits definitely helped us tremendously on the balance sheet, but also provided some hope that things aren’t as bleak as we thought they were, or perhaps are getting better,” said MacKeigan.

The year-end financial figures for both buildings are preliminary and unaudited.

“There is a line that I’ve heard a few times now that zero percent is the new growth,” said MacKeigan. “I kind of feel maybe for Michigan it’s even a little worse than that, and I’m pretty pleased where we ended up financially.”

The buildings’ scorecard

Here is how DeVos Place and Van Andel Arena performed over the last fiscal year, which ended June 30.

Item
Number of events
Attendance
Direct event income
Ancillary income
Other income
Indirect expenses
Net income
DeVos Place
532
538,973
$2,376,311
$1,922,286
$216,713
($5,036,545)
($521,235)
Van Andel Arena
115
597,628
$1,216,232
$1,251,108
$2,608,462
($3,719,148)
$1,356,654
Total
647
1,136,601
$3,592,543
$3,173,394
$2,825,175
($8,755,693)
$835,419
Note: Year-end figures are preliminary and unaudited.

Source: SMG Financial Statements for DeVos Place and Van Andel Arena, August 2009

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