DP Fox receives Belknap extension

June 24, 2011
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Before Grand Rapids city commissioners extended the agreement the city has with DP Fox Sports and Entertainment to run the Belknap Ice Arena, they “Zambonied” the firm with praise for its management skills.

“We have had a very long relationship with DP Fox, and they have done an incredible job managing our facility,” said City Manager Greg Sundstrom.

“It’s safe to say they have flourished. It’s one of the top facilities in the region,” said Tom Almonte, a key assistant to Sundstrom.

“This is one of the most incredible public-private partnerships that we have in the city. It has been nothing short of remarkable,” said Mayor George Heartwell.

DP Fox, which is owned by Dan and Pamella DeVos, began managing the rink on the city’s behalf in 1996, nine years after it was built at 30 Coldbrook NE. Besides running daily operations, the company oversaw the installation of a second sheet of ice in 2002. The work cost $2 million and was paid for by taking $200,000 from the facility’s capital reserve fund and $435,000 from a fundraiser DP Fox directed, and by borrowing $1.3 million from the city.

Senior Vice President of Business Operations Tim Gortsema said DP Fox repaid the city in 2009, eight years ahead of the 15-year repayment schedule. Gortsema said the facility is debt free, cash flow is positive, and the capital improvements that have been made to the rink have been funded through cash flow and the reserve. The second sheet was built because kids who wanted to skate were being turned away due to a lack of available ice time.

The rink, also known as Griff’s Icehouse, plays host to youth and high school hockey games, is home to the Grand Rapids Sled Wings and the Special Olympics, and is also a practice site for the Grand Rapids Griffins. In addition, the rink offers public skating.

“Currently, we have the lowest per-hour ice rates of any of the area’s rinks, while maintaining some of the best quality ice anywhere in West Michigan,” said Gortsema, who also singled out rink manager Terry Marshall for the job he has done. “Certainly, our accomplishments would not have happened without him.”

DP Fox will manage the rink for three more years, according to the agreement ratified by commissioners. The contract, which was set to expire June 30, has four three-year options. Both the city and DP Fox agreed to set aside a portion of the rink’s reserve fund to pay for a resurfacing of the parking lot. Bids are expected to be let soon.

Gortsema said he has worked with Sundstrom on the contract for 15 years. “I think we could have almost done this deal on a handshake or on the back of a napkin,” he said.

DP Fox owns car and motorcycle dealerships, owns and manages commercial and residential real estate, and is the majority owner of the Griffins, an American Hockey League franchise that plays at Van Andel Arena.

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