One-stop entertainment complex coming to GR


20 Monroe Live will accommodate audiences of between 1,200 and 2,600 using a moveable stage and curtaining system. Image courtesy of Gilmore Collection

Greg Gilmore’s 20-year concert venue vision is coming to life and, by early 2017, will offer a one-stop entertainment complex.

Last week, Gilmore unveiled the plans for the $16 million “20 Monroe Live” entertainment venue currently under construction and Gilmore Collection’s partnership with Live Nation’s House of Blues division, one of the nation’s largest music promoters. With construction slated to finish up within the next 90 days, the first concerts should be held in January or February 2017, Gilmore said.

The project is connected to Gilmore’s The B.O.B., which opened in 1996 across from the then newly constructed Van Andel Arena, and has since tripled its annual revenue, according to Gilmore.

“It will further cement this area as the epicenter for entertainment in Grand Rapids and the region,” Gilmore said. “Van Andel Arena has 25 to 30 concerts a year, and we expect to have 120, on a much smaller scale but with more frequency, so we’ll be bringing people downtown on a regular basis.”

Including the 120 shows, the venue will aim to hold more than 200 events each year, including private and corporate events, product launches and festivals.

The 36,000-square-foot 20 Monroe Live will offer a flexible space that can scale from 2,600-person capacity to 1,200 people with a moveable stage and a curtaining system to help offer more diverse space in Grand Rapids for bands, singer-songwriters and comedians.

Seating configurations still are being finalized, but scalable capacity options are available, including 1,200-, 1,600- and 2,200-person capacities.

Attached to the entertainment facility is Orion Construction’s $22 million Venue Tower, which includes 88 apartments.

The first shows currently are being booked, Gilmore said, but he’s unsure what Live Nation is planning for the debut.

Combined with the venue, a four-season beer garden and an alleyway will create more space for private parties and festivals for up to 4,000 people, said Ron Bension, president of Live Nation’s House of Blues Entertainment division.

Live Nation has had a presence in Grand Rapids for a long time, but Bension said to operate a facility will help the city be more attractive to more acts. House of Blues Entertainment operates 60 facilities across the nation, including Fillmore and House of Blues locations.

Bension said 20 Monroe Live is the culmination of Live Nation’s lessons from its other venues and offers elite sound and sight systems.

The current relationship between Gilmore Collection and Live Nation started about two years ago — despite an initial introduction six years ago — when an executive’s wife visited Grand Rapids for ArtPrize. When Live Nation representatives visited the city upon her suggestion, Gilmore said the city’s development and excitement led to the collaboration in his long-term vision.

Gilmore said 20 Monroe Live is meant as a go-between for artists that don’t fit in Van Andel Arena or some of the smaller venues in Grand Rapids, as well as DeVos Performance Hall, which has a relatively full schedule with the city’s four arts organizations: Grand Rapids Symphony, Grand Rapids Ballet, Opera Grand Rapids and Broadway Grand Rapids.

DeVos Hall also doesn’t lend itself to some of the acts Live Nation will book at 20 Monroe Live, Gilmore said.

Despite its size as the state’s second largest city, Grand Rapids often is passed over on tours for venues in other cities similar to 20 Monroe Live, instead performing in Kalamazoo and Lansing, or skipping entirely while playing in Chicago and Detroit.

Bension said Grand Rapids as a fan base will be an easy sell now with a venue of the caliber being built and its ease of travel to Detroit and Chicago. Shows will range from rock and roll to R&B to metal to comedy.

“The routing works well, so an artist can have a Detroit-Grand Rapids-Chicago tour, and it’s another day, but it’s just a half day of travel, so it’s perfect,” Bension said. “We’ve booked in Grand Rapids and have a great presence here, but we feel this is a tremendous opportunity to grow, and this venue can host more types of entertainment than there is available in the market right now.”

Bension echoed Gilmore’s sentiments of a one-stop entertainment center, allowing for a more enjoyable all-around experience.

“We don’t view the concert-going experience as rushing through traffic, going through a security line, going into the show for an hour and a half and leaving to go back into traffic,” he said. “We view it as an evening. You deserve to, as a guest, come early after work and chill in the VIP area, sit outside in the beer garden or enjoy one of the entities in The B.O.B., casually see the concert, then come back out and let the traffic die down.”

Gilmore said he thinks the addition of this size of venue will be similar to the Frederik Meijer Gardens summer concert series.

“There really hasn’t been the venue for these concerts and flex events, and people have just bypassed Grand Rapids,” he said. “Now that we have the venue for them, we’ll see there’s a big demand. It’s recognizable how successful Meijer Gardens and Van Andel are at their sizes.

“It’s a big community, and it’s interested in music. This city is on fire, and we’re just happy to be a part of it.”

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