A professional soccer franchise, a new downtown hotel and a convention center expansion are among a list of proposed projects that could be undertaken in Grand Rapids over the next several years.
Grand Rapids-based Grand Action, a business-based nonprofit, which is responsible for Van Andel Arena, DeVos Place, Civic Theatre, Michigan State University College of Human Medicine and Downtown Market, is evaluating a list of major projects that came out of its Grand Rapids Destination Asset Study.
Grand Action commissioned the study to help “chart a course” that will elevate Grand Rapids as a “top-tier visitor destination” in the coming years.
Based on current occupancy data, the study suggests future expansion of DeVos Place Convention Center will be essential to Grand Rapids, as will a hotel with up to 500 rooms to support the expanded convention center.
“As occupancy increases, a future DVP expansion should target an increase of 50 percent additional sellable event space,” the report says.
That equates to about 115,700 additional square feet of space, requiring 2.5 to 4 acres. The U.S. Post Office location at the corner of Michigan Street and Monroe Avenue is being suggested as a possible location, as well as the Calder Plaza area.
The estimated cost of the proposed expansion is $83.3 million.
The study proposes that a $50,000 request for qualifications, or RFQ, process should begin for the development of a new hotel, which would be attached to the convention center or adjacent to it.
With the United Soccer League, or USL — a third-tier professional men’s soccer league, which launched in 2011, promising to grow from 29 teams to 40 teams by 2020 — the study also suggests Grand Rapids would be a great fit for one of those additional teams.
Grand Rapids is a viable market for a franchise, ranking 20th among existing USL markets due to its DMA population, and USL representatives have previously said the city is “an ideal market for potential expansion for their league.”
“The average number of fans per game during the USL 2015 season was approximately 3,220, nearly 1,300 less than the average attendance of Grand Rapids FC games during the same season,” the report says.
Seating capacities among soccer-specific stadiums average about 8,000, according to the report.
The recommendation is that a soccer-specific stadium analysis be conducted to determine “particular sizing elements, stadium features, ideal location, financial performance and funding partnership options.”
A professional soccer stadium for a USL team with the necessary amenities has a projected cost of $40 million.
Other potential projects listed in the study include enhancing the community’s amateur sports offerings, “aggressively supporting” the GR Forward river restoration plan, creating more outdoor and adventure opportunities and enhancing downtown visitor transportation options.
The study also projects several other costs: $35-$40 million for the initial rapids restoration; $350,000-$1 million per vehicle for five to seven trolley buses; and $1.25-$2.5 million for the addition of five to 10 defined urban trailheads with amenities.
The recommendations were identified following extensive field research encompassing input from nearly 100 organizations within the Grand Rapids community.
Information from GR Forward, Longwoods Travel USA Grand Rapids Visitor Report, Grand Rapids Parks & Recreation Strategic Master Plan, teh Calder Plaza enhancement and other relevant studies were also considered.