November festival records its largest profit

February 13, 2012
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The Convention and Arena Authority and Showspan Inc. will continue to co-produce the International Wine, Beer and Food Festival for at least another three years through 2014.

The annual event that began in 2008 recorded its largest profit ever last November at $33,656, meaning the CAA and Showspan each netted $16,828 for the three-day festival held in the Steelcase Ballroom at DeVos Place. The previous record surplus was $31,886 in 2009. The 2011 event also was the most expensive to produce at $250,161.

“We went up a couple of thousand dollars in the profit,” said Henri Boucher, Showspan vice president. He added that he wasn’t disappointed with the event’s return but had expected more. Boucher said last year’s festival was more expensive to produce because the region’s craft beer makers were officially added to the lineup, and much of the marketing material, such as the downtown banners, had to be changed.

“We’re pleased to announce, though, the show made money,” he said.

Boucher said attendance totaled 12,000 last November, up by 12 percent from 2010. Sixty percent came on Saturday and two-thirds came during evening hours. “I think we can get up to 15,000 next year,” said Boucher. The 2011 festival extended its hours to 10 p.m. on Thursday and Friday, and Boucher said the show will be open until 10 p.m. on Saturday this year, too.

About 125 exhibitors took part in the 2011 event.

“They’re essentially selling their product by the ounce and this is an incentive for them to bring their best stuff — and there’s a lot of people that come because of that,” said Boucher. “We feel if we stay at 12 to 14 restaurants, we’ll be fine.”

Boucher said the average age of a festival attendee in November was 41, slightly younger than the crowd that goes to other Showspan events such as the International Auto Show and the Home and Garden Show, where the average attendee is 45.

“It doesn’t bring to the bottom line what most events do, and it’s extremely time intensive,” said Boucher of the festival. “But we enjoy putting it on.”

At the halfway point in the fiscal year, DeVos Place was $426,500 in the red. A year ago at the six-month mark, the building had lost $519,000. In contrast, Van Andel Arena had a surplus of $367,000 for the first half, which compares to the $71,000 deficit the building faced at the same point in 2011.

Nine concerts played the arena during the first six months, for $783,626 in event income or 68 percent of the building’s total event revenue.

“The average concert revenue has not been quite where we expected it,” said SMG Director of Finance Chris Machuta.

Thirteen concerts were budgeted for the first six months, and event income from those shows was expected to top $1 million by the end of December. Machuta said at least two more concerts had to be booked over the remaining months for the budget expectations to be reached.

The CAA agreed to allocate $50,000 to the design of Lyon Street from Monroe Avenue to the Grand River. The board is participating in the reconstruction of the block-long street — which runs between the south side of DeVos Place and the north side of the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel — with the Downtown Development Authority, the Windquest Group and the hotel. The work is to be done next year.

“This makes a great deal of sense to me,” said CAA Chairman Steven Heacock. He added that the board will get a snowmelt system for the entrance to the convention center’s underground parking garage at a reduced cost because of the project’s partnership.

The CAA also allocated an additional $40,000 to its Community Inclusive Group, which will use the funds to bring shows here that have special appeal to minorities. The board had included $50,000 for the CIG in this year’s budget.

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