Ike Sold On West Michigan

December 30, 2002
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GRAND RAPIDS — When Lynne Ike started doing promotions 15 years ago at the new WKLQ, little did she know that she would eventually direct the marketing efforts of an arena that was ranked 16th in the world for tickets sales earlier this year. Nor could she then imagine marketing a sparkling new $220 million convention center.

After all, the site of the Van Andel Arena was a parking lot then, the concert business was something that other cities like Detroit and Chicago engaged in, and DeVos Place was, well, a twinkle in almost no one's eye.

Yet, Ike will soon mark her 27th month in the marketing chair of a world-class venue that has consistently attracted big-name talent. That's pinch-yourself-'til-you-bruise stuff, and it will only get more dreamlike for Ike. Soon she will occupy a similar seat for DeVos Place.

But she admits that she probably wouldn't be in that lofty position today if she didn't direct promotions at KLQ. Ike said that job opened plenty of doors for her, and was one that allowed her to be herself and meet a lot of interesting people.

"I started there the second year they were on the air. The station was still in its growth phase, so it was a situation that was kind of wacky. You could do just about anything you wanted. It was creative and a heck of a lot of fun building the whole thing," she said.

"We went through about five format changes in the first few years and finally settled into rock. I had three different program directors there and learned from each of them," she added.

After a decade at KLQ, a period during which the station acquired WLAV and WBBL, Ike went to the Grand Center as its events coordinator in 1996. Her employer, Philadelphia-based Spectacor Management Group (SMG), had started running the building and DeVos Hall the previous year.

SMG offered her the key spot because of all the events she promoted over the years for the radio stations. And Ike, then mother to two teens, made the career switch from radio in order to have fewer, and more normal, working hours.

"It got to the point where I needed to focus more on the family, what with teenage boys — they need more hand-holding than toddlers do — and aging parents and grandparents. I needed a job that had less hours, and coordinating events at that point was second nature to me," she said.

"Once I got there I was absolutely amazed at how many events go through the Grand Center. It will do 400 event-days a year, and you can have four or five events the same day and not many of these are public. There are a lot of conventions, private banquets and seminars, and things like that. I wasn't bored at all."

Ike worked at the Grand Center for four years, learning all the behind-the-scenes tricks of her trade, before she took over the top marketing post for the center and the arena — a busy job that demands a lot of juggling and delegating.

Just one of her responsibilities is to get the best ad buys from the local media and place the advertising schedules for promoters. Another is to get the public relations word out about upcoming concerts and shows. She uses news releases, direct mail, the marquees at both buildings, a monthly magazine once known as Front Row but now called In, and a brand new monthly e-magazine duly named the SMG E-Zine. Ike also publicizes the buildings to promoters through the trades.

This year's national campaign revolves around a photo of two wallets, one nearly empty and the other overflowing with cash. The tag line reads, "This is your wallet before playing Van Andel Arena. This is your wallet after." With the track record the building has had, it's easy for promoters to get the message.

"They see us out there and we're constantly reporting the numbers. This keeps us in their minds. They see that Aerosmith sold out, again, while in other parts of the country they're not selling out every time. We had Creed here twice in one year and both shows sold out. Promoters and touring managers notice that," said Ike.

"Between Rich MacKeigan's booking and SMG's routing of some of the different things, we have the big names coming through. Who would have ever thought we'd see The Who?"

Group sales are done through her office. Ike also fields requests from the area's nonprofit organizations and handles all customer service complaints that are made.

"We're highly focused on customer service and we try to make it that everyone goes away with a good feeling," she said. "I've got a fabulous department."

Ike said working for SMG has been invaluable in learning the trade. With 156 venues, the firm is one of the largest building managers in the world, and expert advice on any type of event is just a phone call or e-mail away, as someone, somewhere in the company has already done that show, whatever it is.

But Ike also seems ideally suited for her job. It involves a lot of communicating and she said she loves to talk.

"I got into trouble so much during school for always talking, elementary on through. 'Stop and listen, Lynne, you're talking too much,'" she laughed at the reminder she constantly got when she was younger. "I tried working in a traditional office setting early in my career and wasn't real good at that. I got into trouble for talking all the time.

"Here I'm constantly talking on the phone. I get to talk to the patrons, promoters and people who have traveled the world. And I love to listen," she added. "I think I just love to be around people."

Ike also loves to fish, as does her family. She and David, her husband, and their two sons, Matt and Jason, troll for walleyes. The guys do it year-round, but Lynne skips those cold and windy days of the ice-fishing season.

She also likes spending time with her twin granddaughters, Sabrina and Faith. She gardens and reads a lot. Her favorite author is Nelson DeMille, who reliably cranks out best-selling suspense novels like "The General's Daughter," its sequel "Up Country," and "The Gold Coast."

"I like spy novels and mystery books. But his settings are in unique areas," she said. "I learn a lot from him. He doesn't write the plain, who-done-it thing."

As the year comes to a close this week, Ike, a Grand Rapids native, sees more good things in her immediate future.

"I see an expansion on the horizon. I'm excited about that," she said of DeVos Place, the new convention center that will replace the Grand Center next year. "Just the growth in this market is really exciting for us right now.

"Personally, I don't plan on leaving the area. I love West Michigan. I love working for SMG and having the Convention and Arena Authority that really gives us a lot of flexibility and support. We couldn't have asked for a better board. So I'm very, very happy right where I'm at."     

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