Inside the new Muskegon convention center as it nears completion

Muskegon County

MUSKEGON, Mich. (WOOD) — In just over a month, Muskegon’s brand new $22 million convention center will open to the public.

The VanDyk Mortgage Convention Center is the centerpiece of a $37 million effort to bring more convention business to Muskegon.

“We’re standing in the pre-function area of the VanDyk Mortgage Convention Center,” Jon Rooks, owner of Parkland Properties, which owns the adjoining Delta by Marriott hotel and will manage the convention center, said Thursday as he showed News 8 the sun-drenched reception area. “It’s surrounded by 17-foot high walls of glass and brick and wood, as you can see in the background. And it’s the place where people assemble prior to going in to the big meeting in our 127,000-square-foot ballroom.”

The space was designed not only to accommodate conventioneers, but also with the view in mind.

“It’s elevated with a view of Muskegon Lake on two sides and has long views all of the way down to the channel, looking towards the dunes along Lake Michigan,” Rooks said.

In just a few steps, you’re in the main ballroom.

“This ball room actually is divisible into five separate ballrooms,” Rooks explained. “But if you leave it wide open like this, it has huge windows on both sides.”

Construction, funded by Muskegon County’s hotel/motel tax, started in the spring of 2019. Despite a two-month pandemic-related delay, the project at the corner of 4th Street and Shoreline Drive never fell too far behind schedule. It is now just about ready for its first event.

“We fill a niche for smaller meetings, conventions and smaller trade shows and leisure shows,” said Bob Lukens of Visit Muskegon, the local convention and visitor’s bureau.

It also fills a seasonal niche. Muskegon’s summer tourism business remains healthy, but come fall, things slow down. The center, which will compete with small convention venues in communities like Port Huron, will bring people to town when the weather gets cold.

“The convention center, I think, we really allow us to become a four-season community,” Lukens said.

Part of an overall $37 million investment that also involved a renovation of Mercy Health Arena (formerly L.C. Walker Arena) and a complete makeover of the Delta by Marriott Hotel, both of which tie into the convention center, the facility has a number of conventions and other events booked, including a combination boat and home show for April 16 and 17.
A 2014 feasibility study suggest the convention center could add $10 to $12 million into the Muskegon economy annually, but that was long before the uncertainty of the pandemic. Right now, 24 events are scheduled at the center over the next three years. Time will tell if they all remain on the schedule.

“COVID kind of threw a wrench into everything,” Lukens said. “As more people received the vaccination and feel more confident in coming out to meet and hold events safely, I think we’ll be very successful here.”

A virtual grand opening is set for April 12.

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