DeVos Place Budget May Lower

March 21, 2003
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GRAND RAPIDS — Members of the Convention and Arena Authority are expected to set the capital budget for the new DeVos Place at $211.25 million on Wednesday, a figure down $8.25 million from the initial estimate of $219.5 million.

The CAA Finance Committee adopted the new capital budget last Thursday.

Although there are a number of reasons that explain the drop in the cost to build the new convention center, Kent County supplied the biggest one when commissioners agreed to contribute an additional $5 million to the project.

County Fiscal Services Director Robert White said $1 million of that total went directly to the Convention and Visitors Bureau for its DeVos Place marketing campaign, while the remaining $4 million went into the construction coffer.

White added that the CAA will earn about $3.7 million in investment interest, which is being added to the project, and that the city gave $7 million in federal grants to the overall budget. Half of that grant money was used to reimburse the CAA for earlier expenses the board incurred, while the other half has been targeted for construction.

Construction bids have been lower than expected, too.

Dale Sommers, CAA project manager, reported work on the third and final phase of the project, which includes the razing and reconstruction of the Welsh Auditorium, will begin in June.

The deadline for the completion of that stage is Jan. 31, 2005. But because the phase requires a lot of excavation, Sommers said they wouldn’t know until next January whether the deadline can be met. Events haven’t been booked yet for that section of DeVos Place, which will have a ballroom that can seat 4,000 for dinner and has been designed to serve as additional exhibit space.

Sommers added that the financing end for the first two phases of the project would be closed in November, about a month before the building’s first convention.

The first public show scheduled for the new building is the 2004 Michigan International Auto Show. But SMG general manager Rich MacKeigan said negotiations underway may result in a bridal show being booked before the auto show opens in late January.

White said CAA members will get their first look at the operating budget for the new convention center next week, likely on April 1, and then discuss it at next month’s regular meeting.           

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