Sendoff of ‘incredible champion’ as hopeful signs emerge for GR venues

Grand Rapids

A courtesy photo of Steve Heacock.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The Grand Rapids-Kent County Convention/Arena Authority Board is sending off its longtime leader with signs of promise Grand Rapids’ largest venues will bounce back from the COVID-19 pandemic.

DeVos Place, DeVos Performance Hall and Van Andel Arena have generated a total of $82.6 million in local economic impact and directly and indirectly led to the creation of 1,265 jobs during the 2018-2019 fiscal year, the Michigan Sport Consulting Group concluded in a report presented to the Board Friday. The group’s analysis also found the venues also had a significant positive impact on properties located close by.

One of the presenters told the Board she may even visit Grand Rapids soon for a Dave Matthews Band concert that was tentatively rescheduled for November.

Rich MacKeigan, who works for venue manager ASM Global, said after months of sending money back to Ticketmaster for ticket refunds, the venues recently received a check from Ticketmaster for $1 million in ticket sales.

MacKeigan said while the venues won’t host events in June or July while they are being reactivated and staff return, Van Andel Arena and DeVos Place should start having “a bit more” activity in August. With the Grand Rapids Griffins opening their season at the arena in October, MacKeigan anticipates the last fiscal quarter of the year will be better.

Outgoing CAA Board Chairman Steve Heacock lent his voice to a set of promotional videos aimed at reassuring and attracting visitors back to DeVos Place and Van Andel Arena.

Heacock announced his plan to resign from the CAA Board months ago. While Heacock’s last day as chairman is June 30, Friday marked his final Board meeting.

“I’ve concluded the CAA is a vision keeper,” he told the Board, adding that the vision is to see Kent County and Grand Rapids as a place to visit and live and “not the bland Rapids that people kidded about.”

“The original vision was to create jobs and a vibrant hospitality community, and we’ve done that,” he concluded.

On Friday, the Board appointed treasurer Rick Winn to take over Heacock’s seat.

“This marks the turning of a page,” Winn said.

“It’ll be tough to carry forward from your leadership, but I do promise to do my absolute best,” he told Heacock.

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

With the exception of two years, Heacock has led the CAA since its inception in 2000. His “forward leaning leadership” shaped Grand Rapids into a place-making community when that term was unknown, Board member Birgit Klohs said.

“It’s been a privilege watching you lead this organization over these last two decades and I’ve learned a great deal about leadership in the process,” said Board member Lew Chamberlin. “You were always able to bring just a little humor to the work. We all know this is serious business, but you made it fun… It’s been a privilege, my friend.”

Grand Rapids Mayor Rosalynn Bliss called Heacock an “incredible champion to help sell our city.”

Heacock said he was overwhelmed by the Board’s kindness.

“I guess that’s what you get when you kind of go through battle together,” he added.

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