Another loss for convention center

September 10, 2011
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Even though DeVos Place finished in the red for the seventh consecutive fiscal year, the amount of red ink spilled was less than last year and a lot less than projected a year ago.

At the same time, Van Andel Arena recorded another surplus. But the results from the last fiscal year marked the first time the building didn’t clear the million-dollar mark: It netted $866,599 for the year, or about $600,000 less than last year’s total.

SMG Director of Finance Chris Machuta said fewer concerts was the reason revenue to the arena was down for the year. Only 15 were held, compared to 21 the previous year.

“The average for shows was down, as were the number of shows,” he said.

However, concert activity has rebounded early in this fiscal year; six have already been held — two in July and four last month. Machuta hoped last year’s poor concert showing was a one-time anomaly, but he said he’d have a better handle on how the current year will turn out later in the year.

DeVos Place lost $428,392 for the fiscal year — less than the $573,000 it lost last year and much less than the $711,000 it was projected to lose this year.

“Overall, it was a solid year. The sales staff did a good job on banquets and meetings,” said Machuta.

Convention and Arena Authority Chairman Steven Heacock asked Machuta if this is the best financial outcome the board can expect from the convention center. Machuta said it would be difficult for DeVos Place to perform better without including the parking revenue the CAA collects from the ramp underneath the building. The CAA has refrained from doing that because not all the parking revenue can be attributed to the exhibit space and meeting rooms that make up DeVos Place.

As for the CAA, it lost $1.6 million for the fiscal year, which works out to be a $2.4 million turnaround from last year when it netted $846,000. The primary reason for the loss is because the CAA spent nearly $3.4 million on capital projects last year. In the previous fiscal year, it spent just $676,000 on building upgrades.

The year-end numbers for the CAA and both buildings are preliminary and unaudited.

Despite the financial loss, a national trade magazine designated DeVos Place as a Prime Site Destination for 2011. According to Facilities Media Group, the publisher of Facilities & Destinations, the award is a recognition of achievement for the building and its personnel.

“We take site selection very seriously. It is the most important decision when it comes to meeting planning because so much of event success is dependent on the right setting,” said Michael Caffin, associate publisher of Facilities Media Group.

The arena was listed this year as a top venue by Billboard, Pollstar and Venues Today, all national trade publications. Billboard and Venues Today rated the arena the sixth highest-grossing entertainment building in its seating classification, while Pollstar ranked Van Andel 55th in the Top 100 Arena Venues of all sizes worldwide. Venues Today also listed DeVos Performance Hall at 19th for buildings of its size.

During the last fiscal year, the performance hall hosted 156 events that drew 174,113 patrons and returned $1.07 million in event income to the CAA. Heacock said a new booking policy was almost ready and will give the CAA more control over dates in the building. SMG Regional General Manager Rich MacKeigan, also CAA executive director, said talks with the four arts tenants were going well, and he hopes to bring a new booking policy to the board at next month’s meeting.

MacKeigan said the arena will take part in ArtPrize for the first time this year, hosting works from seven artists. DeVos Place will again participate in the arts competition by displaying the works of 63 artists, the most it has hosted in its three years of participating in the event.

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