The Grand Rapids Gold is working with downtown entertainment officials to see whether Van Andel Arena could be the minor league basketball team’s new venue, according to a team executive.
The team is actively searching for a new home arena following an announcement today that the DeltaPlex Arena & Conference Center in Walker is closing at the end of July. The Gold — a National Basketball Association G-League team that operated as the Grand Rapids Drive for its first seven seasons — has called the DeltaPlex home since 2014.
“That 6,000 (capacity) that was at the DeltaPlex is really kind of in our wheelhouse for size,” said team founder and President Steve Jbara, suggesting Van Andel Arena would be a likely candidate for a new home venue. “There aren’t really a lot of them around, and if there are, you can’t sell booze or the dates are tricky. So I don’t think you’ll be shocked with the place we did find.”
A representative with ASM Global, which manages the 12,000-capacity Van Andel Arena, declined to comment.
Jbara spoke with MiBiz on the heels of an announcement today from DeltaPlex President Joel Langlois that his venue will cease operations beginning July 31. Langlois sold the property on Dec. 23, 2021, for $5.5 million to DEG Development Co. LLC, which is registered to Visser Development Inc. co-owner Bruce Visser.
A Visser Development representative declined to comment for this story.
Jbara said Langlois notified him about a month ago that the arena — located at 2500 Turner Ave. NW — would shut down operations this summer, sending Jbara and his staff looking for a comparable venue.
The Gold needs a venue that meets criteria laid out by the NBA G-League, including furnished locker rooms for teams, coaches and officials. While the league was strict on the inclusion of certain amenities, none of the demands were “over the top,” Jbara said.
The Gold practice at Calvin University, which includes a venue that Jbara admitted would be the perfect size for the team’s needs, but the team would not be permitted to sell alcohol at the location.
Van Andel Arena in downtown Grand Rapids stands as the obvious frontrunner. Jbara said the Gold has been working with arena officials to probe whether scheduling would be feasible.
“We’ve been trying to work with (Van Andel Arena) and the league on some flexibility and to figure out the schedule process,” Jbara said. “For example, we need about 65 holds to come up with our 24-game (home) schedule.”
Playing home games in downtown Grand Rapids, as opposed to the DeltaPlex about 4 miles north in Walker, comes with a few distinct benefits, including walkup patrons, Jbara said.
“Every person that came out to a game (at the DeltaPlex) was a pull by us,” Jbara said. “And the other thing is college students. At the DeltaPlex, we didn’t really have the transportation. The buses didn’t go there for kids to come from Allendale or over from Calvin.”
The Gold is in the first year of a three-year agreement serving as an affiliate to the NBA’s Denver Nuggets. The Gold formerly was affiliated with the Detroit Pistons, which only would commit to short-term agreements at a time, according to Jbara.
This summer, Jbara expects the Gold to sign an extension with the Nuggets — who are currently down three games to one to the Golden State Warriors in the first round of the NBA playoffs — to usher in the stability of a long-term deal.
“The Nuggets have really given us the flexibility of calling this a long-term partnership,” he said. “It gives us the opportunity to invest in some place and take a shot at maybe some place we looked at before and weren’t sure if we were right for yet.”
Meanwhile, the DeltaPlex will shut down after 25 years of hosting various sporting events, concerts and conventions. Langlois cited the COVID-19 pandemic, and the accompanying shutdowns of public events, as a primary reason for his decision.
“During that time, many of our expenses did not stop while we saw little to no income,” Langlois said in a statement to the media today. “The few events and facility use over that time were, for the most part, done without any expectation of rent and was done as part of our civic obligation to give back to our community during a difficult time.”
“Even though the past few years have been challenging, the decision to close has been difficult,” Langlois added.
Staff Writer Kate Carlson and Managing Editor Andy Balaskovitz contributed to this story.