MacKeigan Has New Job

August 25, 2006
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GRAND RAPIDS — When Convention and Arena Authority Chairman Steven Heacock announced a year ago that the board was ready to negotiate a contract with SMG to continue managing Van Andel Arena and DeVos Place, he insisted that SMG General Manager Rich MacKeigan had to stay on.

And the other board members agreed.

When the CAA awarded the arena concessions and catering business to SMG in April, selecting the company over 10-year veteran server Centerplate Inc., members did so largely based on the performance MacKeigan has recorded at the arena for the last eight years and for the relationship he has had with them for the past six years.

“We’re really doing this because of our faith in Rich and his staff,” Heacock said then.

Last week, the CAA board showed as much faith in MacKeigan as it possibly could when members unanimously agreed to make him their first executive director.

“It’s an agreement that Rich has agreed to and SMG has approved,” said Heacock.

In his new position, MacKeigan will continue as general manager of both buildings and as an SMG employee. The executive director post is part-time and requires him to work seven to eight hours each week for 48 weeks each year on behalf of the board. MacKeigan will receive $25,000 annually, but will not get any fringe benefits.

Either MacKeigan or the CAA can terminate the contract with 30 days written notice, or less than 30 days notice for cause.

MacKeigan told the Business Journal that he has performed many of the duties required by the position in his GM post, such as handling a property easement near the arena for the board and putting together two CAA fundraising concerts for local charities.

But as executive director, MacKeigan will take on some new responsibilities for the CAA such as overseeing the parking revenue the board receives from the DeVos Place ramp and a lot located behind the arena. That income stream produced $672,000 in the last fiscal year.

Heacock said the CAA needed an executive director. The board only has seven members and one full-time administrator, and sometimes “some things fall through the cracks.” In the past, he said, MacKeigan has handled those matters, so it seemed only logical to make him an employee.

“It’s very positive from a professional development standpoint, personally,” MacKeigan said of his new title.

The employment agreement calls for MacKeigan to remain neutral if a squabble arises between SMG and the CAA. MacKeigan has agreed not to consult either side in a conflict and not to participate on either’s behalf.

Heacock said the board thought about hiring a full-time director, but members determined there wasn’t enough activity to warrant one, and hiring an outsider could have resulted in a director doing much of the same work that MacKeigan does.

But should MacKeigan leave Grand Rapids for another position, the director’s job would not routinely be awarded to his replacement here.

“If Rich ever were to leave us, I would not automatically want the next SMG manager to be the executive director. I don’t want to set a precedent,” said board member Birgit Klohs.

MacKeigan became a CAA employee Aug. 1. But the contract won’t officially go into effect until the board receives SMG’s written approval, which CAA counsel Dick Wendt said was on the way.

The CAA also approved an amendment to the management agreement the board has with SMG. Members ratified a change that drops the annual fixed-base fee SMG gets from $350,000 to $300,000, an amount the firm agreed to when it took over the concessions and catering business at the arena. Both the new management and food and beverage contracts went into effect July 1, the start of the board’s fiscal year.    

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