CAA Views Potential For New Wine Festival

October 23, 2007
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GRAND RAPIDS — Members of the Convention and Arena Authority will learn this week that the board’s very first food and wine festival is almost a done deal.

“There has been some pretty good progress made on it,” said Rich MacKeigan, executive director of the CAA and regional general manager for SMG, which directs daily operations at Van Andel Arena and DeVos Place.

Although specific dates for the festival haven’t been set, the weekend event will be held in November 2008 at DeVos Place and will feature wineries from throughout the world. But the show’s focus will center on the 42 wineries located in Michigan.

MacKeigan said the response from the wineries has been positive. He also said winery owners like the idea that the festival won’t ask them to donate product to the event, as many similar shows do, but will give them a chance to recoup their costs by allowing the wineries to sell tickets to sample their products.

MacKeigan said he was tying up the loose ends of a three-year agreement with the event’s potential producer and is hoping to have a signed contract and the show’s dates set within a month, a full year before the first of at least three annual festivals.

“This will be the premier event in the state, perhaps the Midwest,” he said.

All proceeds from the festival will go to the CAA. The board plans to invest those dollars into capital improvement projects for the buildings.

The CAA will also hear this week that the audited report from Deloitte shows DeVos Place lost $651,247 for the last fiscal year, while the arena recorded a surplus of $1.55 million for the year, the second largest surplus in the building’s history.

“Event revenue is driving the increase in the bottom line. All in all, it was a very strong year for the arena,” said Mary Ellen Rodgers, managing partner of the local Deloitte office.

Rodgers gave credit to MacKeigan and SMG Director of Finance Chris Machuta for their fiscal management of both buildings.

MacKeigan said the Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus concert set for the arena on Dec. 6 was the third fastest-selling concert at the building, as the Disney Channel star sold out in just six minutes. Only shows by Bob Seger and Tim McGraw and Faith Hill sold out quicker. MacKeigan said he has received calls from people wanting to buy tickets to the show from as far away as Pennsylvania, Texas and California. Although the average face value of the tickets is $50, ticket brokers are selling tickets to the arena performance for $200 to $2,000.

“It’s the toughest ticket I’ve seen in my time here,” said MacKeigan, who has directed operations at the arena for more than nine years.

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