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Left to right: Tom Welch, Carol Van Andel, and Dick DeVos. Left to right: Tom Welch, Carol Van Andel, and Dick DeVos. COURTESY PHOTO

Convention center expansion, amphitheater, soccer stadium are Grand Action’s new priorities

BY Thursday, October 01, 2020 03:30pm

GRAND RAPIDS — The business group that pushed several major developments over the past 25 years is now focused on a downtown convention center expansion, an amphitheater and a professional soccer stadium.

While the projects have been on the radar of civic leaders, developers and city officials for nearly five years, Grand Action is taking a fresh look at the feasibility of each project.

Grand Action, which dissolved at the end of 2017 and relaunched in March under new leadership, has retained consulting firm CSL to provide a new market feasibility study on the projects. The study is expected in late November.

“This really is the next phase,” said Grand Action spokesperson John Truscott. “There was a thought that Grand Action would back away a little bit and see what the market would bring downtown from developers. There was kind of a passing of the torch to a new generation of leadership to see what they could do as part of that next wave.”

A downtown amphitheater and professional soccer stadium are among that next phase of projects under consideration. Potential sites include the 15-acre, city-owned 201 Market Ave. property along the Grand River where city officials recently walked away from a proposed $270 million mixed-use development, as MiBiz previously reported.

The city has been considering plans for an amphitheater, soccer stadium and convention hotel for at least four years. Until recently, a “proof of concept task force” overseen by the Grand Rapids-Kent County Convention/Arena Authority, led the due diligence behind each component. 

Members of the task force include Doug Small, president and CEO of Experience Grand Rapids, The Right Place Inc. President and CEO Birgit Klohs, Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. President and CEO Tim Kelly, and Grand Rapids City Manager Mark Washington.

In a Sept. 30 letter to the Convention/Arena Authority, Small noted Grand Action’s leading of the updated market feasibility studies on a convention hotel and a “multi-use amphitheater.”

“The Task Force does conclude that an amphitheater located downtown is worthy of pursuit,” Small wrote. “Additional information that might come from the CSL Study related to the amphitheater would only enhance the design and functionality of the venue. Subsequently, the Task Force and I recommend that the (Convention/Arena Authority) put the Task Force on hold until the Grand Action study and subsequent involvement is better understood.”

Grand Action 2.0 is led by Carol Van Andel, Dick DeVos and Tom Welch, regional president of Fifth Third Bank. DeVos is the only holdover from the previous Grand Action team that was also co-chaired by John Canepa and David Frey, both of whom retired.

Formed in 1992, the original Grand Action group pushed major downtown developments such as Van Andel Arena, DeVos Place Convention Center, the relocation of Michigan State University’s medical school to Grand Rapids and the Secchia Center, the Downtown Market, renovation of DeVos Performance Hall and the Grand Rapids Civic Theater.

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