CAA to consider adding ads to DeVos Place

March 25, 2012
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Local attorney Gary McInerney recently made his final recommendation to the Convention and Arena Authority, the board he has sat on since 2003 as an appointee of former Gov. Jennifer Granholm. His specialty on the seven-member panel has been to find revenue streams the CAA could use for capital improvements and maintenance at Van Andel Arena and DeVos Place.

The board approved two of McInerney’s earlier suggestions and agreed to look into a third earlier this month. A premium-seating program at DeVos Performance Hall and the International Wine, Beer and Food Festival were the two revenue-raising efforts McInerney created with SMG Regional Manager Rich MacKeigan, also CAA executive director.

“By the end of this current fiscal year, these combined efforts will have contributed nearly $300,000 to the bottom line of our facilities,” said McInerney.

His latest suggestion to the CAA is to consider adding permanent advertising to DeVos Place, like it has already done at the arena.

“Permanent advertising at the convention center would attract a different client base than at the arena, thus avoiding the cannibalization of current advertising dollars,” said McInerney. “The clientele at DeVos Place would offer permanent advertisers access to a different customer base, with a higher focus on business-to-business marketing rather than directed at concert-goers or sports fans.”

MacKeigan told the board he agreed with McInerney’s suggestion and said the CAA should seriously study whether to offer advertising in the building, which would mean adding permanent signs. Both McInerney and MacKeigan said the board would have to be sensitive to existing signs, which include the names of donors who supported the building’s capital campaign, if it decides to go ahead with the program.

MacKeigan said the permanent ads at the arena have intentionally been kept to a minimum, and the same policy would be followed at the convention center.

DP Fox Sports and Entertainment, which is owned by Dan and Pamella DeVos, has handled the arena’s ad program on behalf of the CAA. MacKeigan was asked if that firm would do the same for DeVos Place.

“I wouldn’t say they would not. I would say they could. That is something that we’re looking at,” he said.

Something else the CAA will be looking at is a study from Rossetti & Associates, the architectural firm that designed Van Andel Arena. The board enlisted Rossetti to suggest how the arena could remain fresh and competitive in the future, possibly including making capital improvements to the building that opened in 1996. The report is due soon.

“The end of the study is the start of the discussion,” said MacKeigan.

The CAA has also hired the Anderson Economic Group of Lansing to determine the economic impact of DeVos Place. SMG Director of Finance Chris Machuta said the activity surrounding the consumer shows held in the building, such as the auto and boats shows, has picked up.

“In addition to attendance being up, patrons are spending money when they’re here,” he said. Machuta added that Showspan Inc., which produces most of the building’s consumer shows, was also pleased with the increase. “They’re very happy with attendance and that people are spending money.”

The consumer-show season at DeVos Place generally runs during the first quarter of the calendar year, and January’s results showed that attendance and direct event income were both up from last year. In January, 75,369 individuals went through the building’s turnstiles, and event income was $295,000. The previous year those numbers were 65,066 and $262,000.

McInerney is leaving the CAA because Gov. Rick Snyder appointed Charlie Secchia to the board. The governor is entitled to one appointment to the panel, and these appointments so far have run in tandem with political party lines. McInerney replaced David Frey, who was appointed by Gov. John Engler in 2001, the year the CAA was commissioned.

Secchia is the son of Peter and Joan Secchia and owns Attico Ventures LLC, a commercial real estate investment and management company in Grand Rapids.

“This really is a very, very good add for the committee,” said Heacock.

“As I told Charlie and the governor, this is a very hard-working group that takes very good care of these assets. Charlie will be a good fit and a hard worker,” said McInerney. “It’s the way the system works. I’ve been fired by better governors.”

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