MacKeigan named 40 Under 40 Distinguished Alumnus


Richard MacKeigan. Photo by Johnny Quirin

Rich MacKeigan has a big role in Grand Rapids.

He’s one of the area’s leaders whose work directly contributes to the region’s growth.

As regional manager of SMG, he oversees the Van Andel Arena, DeVos Performance Hall and DeVos Place, which all bring in tourists who contribute to the local economy.

Last year’s record hotel booking rates in Kent County were attributed to several events, including the State Games of America, which was held at the arena and various other sites and brought more than 202,000 athletes and visitors to the area.

Over the past year and a half, there have been record-setting ticket sales for national concert tours at the arena and arts performances at DeVos, including three weeks of sold-out “Wicked” performances.

The Business Journal recognized MacKeigan numerous times over the years, specifically naming him a member of 40 Under 40 classes in 2002, 2005 and 2007.

This year, he was named as GRBJ’s 2018 40 Under 40 Distinguished Alumnus.

Previous 40 Under 40 distinguished alumni include Art of the Table and Aperitivo owner Amy Ruis; former U.S. Attorney Patrick Miles; Lambert, Edwards & Associates President Jeff Lambert; CWD Real Estate Investment Managing Partner Sam Cummings; and business owner and nonprofit leader Tami VandenBerg.

MacKeigan said he thought he misheard Business Journal Editor Carole Valade when she called to inform him of the news.

He said the Business Journal always has been a “mainstay” for him and SMG, whether through advertising or informing him about business news in the community.

“It’s absolutely an honor,” he said.

“I’ve always been appreciative of the Business Journal because of that recognition of me in the past, and I’m extremely appreciative of this recognition today.”

The industry publication Venues Today gave MacKeigan a 2016 Hall of Headlines award in the bookings category. Billboard Magazine named him one of the 10 top arena managers for midsized venues in 2016 and 2017, and ranked him and the arena sixth worldwide and second in North America for mid-sized venues on the Arena Power Players list.

Originally from Canada, MacKeigan joined SMG as the general manager in 1998 and became regional manager in 2007.

In 2006, the Grand Rapids-Kent County Convention/Arena Authority hired MacKeigan as its first executive director. In 2012, he also became a regional booking director for SMG, providing support and structure for booking efforts of more than a dozen arenas in the Midwest.

MacKeigan has overall financial, marketing, booking and operational responsibility for the three Grand Rapids venues, and he oversees about 125 full- and part-time employees, which has doubled since he started.

SMG’s combined revenue and the CAA end fund were both up from previous years in 2017.

In addition to his duties as general manager for the Grand Rapids venues, he also oversees the Blue Water Convention Center in Port Huron, the Dow Event Center in Saginaw, the Huntington Event Park in Saginaw, and the arena, theater and convention center that make up the Peoria Civic Center complex in Peoria, Illinois.

When MacKeigan and his wife first moved to the area, they thought they would stay for two or three years.

But, 20 years and three kids later, he said there’s not a place in North America he would have rather stayed.

“I cannot fathom a better 20 years to be in Grand Rapids than the last 20,” he said.

He said the success he has found in Grand Rapids comes from the community’s “significant progress coupled with continued momentum,” and that gave him opportunities to grow professionally, such as building the convention center, while remaining in the area.

“You can’t have successful events in our buildings without a community that supports it and services it, and the better that community gets, the better you’re able to host events,” he said.

All that community support has put Grand Rapids on the map, MacKeigan said.

“We are a known player in the live entertainment world,” he said. “You can go anywhere in North America, and if someone is in that business, they know Grand Rapids,” he said, adding he is working to move convention bookings to the same level of recognition.

MacKeigan said the level of collaboration between business and community leaders in the area is part of what has made him feel welcome to stay.

“The overwhelming sentiment amongst the business community is they want to see you succeed, and there’s a level of partnership and commitment that I don’t think is prevalent in many other places,” he said.

MacKeigan also is on the boards of Experience Grand Rapids, the West Michigan Sports Commission and the Economic Club of Grand Rapids, and he is a member of the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce Regional Issues Council.

He is a member of the International Association of Venue Managers, the International Entertainment Buyers Association, has been a panelist for a number of industry conferences and meetings, and is involved with Hospice of Michigan and Kids’ Food Basket.

The Business Journal will recognize this year's class of 40 Under 40 Business Leaders during an event from 5-8 p.m., Oct. 17, at 20 Monroe Live in downtown Grand Rapids. Tickets are available here.   

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