Businesses Make Skate Great


    GRAND RAPIDS — The ice isn’t thin anymore because two relative newcomers to the local corporate community and a reliable standby stepped up to fund public skating at Rosa Parks Circle. They also made sure that the Great Skate is a reality this weekend for the fourth consecutive year.

    The Great Skate, which involves players and coaches from the Grand Rapids Griffins taking around-the-clock shifts on the Rosa Parks rink to raise money for the Griffins Youth Foundation, was skating on thin ice and in jeopardy of being canceled.

    Having to cancel the Great Skate would have cost the Youth Foundation about $12,500, the amount the event raised last year, and would have been the second financial blow for the charity in the past several months. The organization lost about $70,000 in proceeds when the Detroit Red Wings Red-White Game at Van Andel Arena was wiped out in September because of scheduling conflicts.

    But LaSalle Bank and Centennial Wireless came together last October to donate $25,000 to the city’s Parks and Recreation Department — which didn’t have the funds in its budget to keep the rink open — to ensure that ice would cover the MonroeCenter rink. A day later, the Downtown Development Authority contributed $40,000 to the cause, upping the park’s fund to $65,000 — a large enough amount to cover almost all of the skating season.

    “The event gets started on the 14th at and runs through the 15th at ,” said Michael Sekulich, executive director of the Griffins Youth Foundation, of the popular 24-hour event that allows fans to skate with their favorite players.

    LaSalle and Centennial worked closely with the DDA, the Downtown Alliance, DP Fox Ventures (the majority owner of the Griffins), and the foundation to overcome the budget cut that was imposed on the parks department last June.

    “It is the private sector and the public sector working together that will make this city grow,” said Dan Terpsma, senior vice president of LaSalle Bank.

    Although LaSalle bought Michigan National Bank more than four years ago, LaSalle didn’t put its name on the masthead until this past September, when the lender removed Standard Federal from the business banner and added its own.

    Centennial arrived here in May and promptly signed a sponsorship agreement with the Grand Rapids Rampage, the Arena Football franchise owned by DP Fox, for the naming rights of the team’s playing field.

    Even though the DDA funded construction of the park years ago, the donation marked the first time the board has contributed to its operational budget.

    Sekulich said most of the funds raised from the Great Skate will come from sponsors that support the event. Comcast, the metro area’s cable provider, is the event’s title sponsor. Five other companies also are backing the event to the tune of $1,000 each.

    Other monies raised this weekend will come from fans who skate with the Griffins and from inner-city children who participate in the eight different skating programs the Youth Foundation offers for free. The elementary and middle-school-aged kids have gathered pledges for the time they skate on the rink this weekend.

    “The money goes to all of our programming. It goes right back into ice time and into equipment,” said Sekulich. “With the loss of the Red-White Game this year, it’s been a tough year. We’re just trying to augment that loss. We can’t make it up, but we can chip away at it.”    

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