CAA to look into arenas future

December 12, 2010
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The Convention and Arena Authority has invested about $2.6 million in capital improvements for Van Andel Arena in just the past few months, and will learn in a few more months what changes may be necessary to keep the 15-year-old building active and profitable.

Roughly $1.2 million of the total investment went into expanding the arena’s northwest concourse by 3,500 square feet. SMG Assistant General Manager Jim Watt said the project’s finishing touches were still being made, even though the section has been open to the public for nearly a month.

“We’ve seen an immediate improvement on the traffic flow on the concourse,” he said.

Watt also remarked that the project, which was designed by Rossetti & Associates and managed by Rockford Construction, was a traumatic experience at times but, ultimately, it is an excellent addition to the arena. Besides lessening traffic congestion in that corner, the expansion also means more space to sell food and beverages. Amway Corp. bought the naming rights for the section, which features a full bar, food service and three flat-screen TVs.

The $1 beer promotion offered by Grand Rapids Griffins on Friday nights hasn’t been offered in the “Amway Section A” yet. But SMG Regional General Manager Rich MacKeigan said they might try it there soon to see how the foot traffic flows.

MacKeigan also said last week’s Ozzy Osbourne concert was the first true test for the new section because a fairly full house was expected.

The CAA spent another $1 million on the LED ribbon board that runs along the façade of the building’s upper deck. The board was manufactured by Daktronics, is 657 linear feet, has 1,750 square feet of LED display and is expected to increase the arena’s advertising revenue. Watt said it has enhanced the fans’ experiences at Griffins games.

The CAA also invested $450,000 in a new snowmelt system for the front entrance, which Watt said was operating smoothly.

MacKeigan said he would be accepting bids soon on what he called an architectural study. The study’s purpose is to determine what needs to be done at the arena to keep it competitive. He said he plans to file a report on this effort with the CAA in February.

CAA member Lew Chamberlin said the study should not only look at the newest available technology for the building and what can be done to add to the arena’s bottom line, but also determine what the board can do to protect it as an asset.

“Sometimes architects and engineers can see things that we may not be able to,” he said.

At the end of October, a third of the way through the fiscal year, the arena was $225,415 in the red. SMG Director of Finance Chris Machuta said some of the concert activity that was lacking in the first quarter was beginning to pick up.

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