Longtime GR-Kent Co. Convention/Arena Authority chair stepping down early

Grand Rapids

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The longtime chair of the Grand Rapids-Kent County Convention/Arena Authority is stepping down.

At the request of the Kent County Board of Commissioners, which appointed him, Steve Heacock will resign in June. That’s 18 months before the end of his term.

As owners of Van Andel Arena and DeVos Place Convention Center, the authority is a major player in the success of downtown Grand Rapids.

With the exception of two years, Heacock has been the CAA’s chair since its inception in 2000. And while his resignation may come as a surprise to some, Heacock says not to read too much into it.

“It was entirely my decision,” Heacock told News 8.

Heacock said his decision came after discussions with the Convention Arena Authority Board about his plan to not seek another term. Part of the reasoning, he said, had to do with need for new strategies to deal with the aftermath of COVID — which essentially closed down events at both the arena and convention center — and planning for future large-scale projects.

“With things like the amphitheater and the convention hotel and other things coming up, they’re thinking that hey, it make sense to have somebody that’s going to not only see the beginning of those, but the fruition of it in place. And I can’t argue with that,” Heacock said.

Heacock has been part of major downtown revitalization efforts for decades, including the Kent County Board of Commissioners and Grand Action.

“I sat in the room when we talked about the color of the seats in the arena,” Heacock said of the early days when projects like the arena went from vision to reality. “When you compare it to other cities, I think often you’ll see people with competing interests more than people with collaborative interest. Here, it’s collaborative.”

“The challenge is, of course, to make it not an elitist, tiny little group of people,” he added. “And to make sure we hear from all voices.”

So it may not surprise some to know Heacock doesn’t consider brick-and-mortar projects to be his greatest accomplishments.

A number of years ago, the CAA, under Heacock’s leadership, came to the realization that not everyone from the community was taking part in events at the arena and convention center.

So they created a cultural inclusion group.

“The magic to it was, we didn’t want to stride in with some program and say, ‘We’re here to help.’ We said to the community, ‘Please rise up to this and lead this and make it your own and tell us what to do,” Heacock said. “And in fact, that’s what occurred.”

While he may be leaving the CAA, Heacock will still play a major role in the future of downtown Grand Rapids. In 2019, he was named as CEO of Grand Rapids WhiteWater, the project to make the Grand River the center point of future downtown development.

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