Bigger Michigan Auto Show On Tap

    GRAND RAPIDS — The city’s shiny, new convention center will become the state’s most attractive indoor parking lot for four days later this month when the sixth annual Michigan International Auto Show opens in DeVos Place on Jan. 29.

    It’s the first time the event, presented each year by the Grand Rapids New Car Dealers Association, will be held under the expanded roof of DeVos Place. And the four-day auto show is the first event open to the public that will use the entire building.

    For auto dealers, that means room for more models — up to 40 percent more. And for potential car buyers that means a lot more tires to kick. Over 300 models are expected to be on display from 36 automakers at this year’s show.

    “The first thing we did when we saw we were going to have from 50 to 60 percent more space to work with was we went to all the brands and upped all their contracts for exhibit space by 40 to 50 percent, depending on the line,” said Henri Boucher, vice president with Showspan Inc., which is producing the auto show.

    “Everybody just welcomed that news because they haven’t been able to show the breadth of their product lines the way that they’ve wanted to in the past. There will be a little bit more room to move around the cars, too, so I’m guessing there will be 30 to 40 percent more cars in there, which will mean a much fuller representation of what is out there,” he added.

    A bigger DeVos Place also means an easier move-in for automakers and dealers.

    “The building was built state-of-the-art with big doors to move in and proper loading docks, proper turning-around radiuses, and the auto show does use a lot of the loading docks. So having 14 loading docks, as opposed to three in the old building, allows us to operate far smoother and get better displays in,” said Boucher.

    The extra room the show gets from being held in DeVos Place also means an attraction has been added to the event. In addition to concept cars, pre-production models, and the always-popular “Million Dollar Motorway,” six classic autos from the Gilmore Car Museum will be on hand. The autos that will be displayed were built between 1905 and 1957.

    As in previous years, a charity gala will be held the evening before the show’s opening on Wednesday, Jan. 28. All money raised at the gala, which offers a preview of the show and a performance from Darrell Hammond of “Saturday Night Live” fame, will go to the Children’s Miracle Network at DeVos Children’s Hospital.

    It’s Hammond’s second consecutive appearance at the show, because the comedian, known for his impression of former President Bill Clinton, wowed the crowd last year.

    “People had tears in their eyes they, were laughing so hard. I’ve talked with an awful lot of people who said they would be coming because they want to see him again,” said Boucher.

    Gala tickets cost $100, are tax deductible, and are available from a new car dealer or by calling Showspan at (616) 447-2860.

    The very first public show was held in the new building last weekend when Bridal World 2004 took place on Saturday. DeVos Place will do double duty for the first time next week when it hosts the 34th Annual Bridal Show and a convention from the Michigan Association of Fairs and Exhibitions.

    An RV Show and Autorama will take place at DeVos Place the following weekend. More public shows are scheduled for February and March, including the Home & Garden Show, the Boat Show and the Golf Show.

    By the end of this fiscal year on June 30, DeVos Place will likely have hosted 60 public shows. Those events have been projected to be worth over $755,000 in event income for the building, or about 52 percent more revenue than the Grand Center took in last year. For the last fiscal year, event revenue from these consumer events at the Grand Center fell just short of $500,000.           

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