Grand Rapids-area amphitheater plans revived

Kent County

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Plans are once again getting underway to build an amphitheater in metro Grand Rapids, this time backed by a $5 million investment from the state.

The funding that legislators approved at the end of last year provides a strong springboard for the project, the Grand Rapids-Kent County Convention and Arena Authority says.

The arena authority is overseeing the development, which could ultimately materialize as a venue with seating for more than 12,000. Half the capacity would be covered seating.

“Very exciting to think about and talk about because it’s one more thing that ignites the great summer destination that Grand Rapids can be and should be,” Steve Heacock, the chair of the arena authority, told 24 Hour News 8 Monday. “It would create great excitement. It would create the use of hotels and restaurants and bottom line create a bunch of jobs for people that need them and want them.”

The amphitheater planning is still in its infancy. Officials are still trying to settle on a location.

In 2008, the arena authority started plans (PDF) for an amphitheater at Millennium Park in Walker but the idea was tabled due to a lack of funding during the recession.

“(The arena authority) really did not have the funding or the ability to get the funding at the time,” Heacock said. “We think maybe the time is right now.”

He said the arena authority is using the plans from 2008 as a starting point. Millennium Park is still in the running as a potential site but the board has some reservations, including about limited points of entry and exit.

Other locations are being considered, though Heacock did not disclose where. He said the arena authority would like to see the venue as close to downtown Grand Rapids as possible.

If the venue is constructed as planned to seat 12,000 or more, it would rival Van Andel Arena, which normally seats about 10,800 people but has a capacity for 12,000 visitors.

No firm dates for construction have been set. Heacock said he hopes groundbreaking will happen in the next year or two. A clearer timeline is expected to be spelled out once funding and a location are secured.

The money from the state has been earmarked for building the amphitheater. If plans are scrapped, the $5 million would go back into state coffers.

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