CAA To Pick Auto Show Producer

    GRAND RAPIDS — The Operations Committee of the Convention and Arena Authority is a bit closer to deciding who will drive the Michigan International Auto Show in 2004.

    Richard Wendt, a partner at Dickinson Wright and legal counsel for the CAA, told committee members last week that they have the right to choose who produces the show, and that claims of antitrust practices and breach of contract assertions being thrown about by the two parties are not their concern.

    “There is no question in my mind that this matter falls into your lap,” said Wendt.

    “It’s our conclusion that you don’t have any legal liability one way or another,” he added.

    The disagreement over who should produce the show is between Showspan Inc. and the Grand Rapids New Car Dealers Association. Showspan has produced the annual event since it began in 1999, while the dealers have organized and promoted it over the same time. But the two had a falling out following the last show held in February at the Grand Center.

    The dealers have complained that Showspan hasn’t given them the financial information that is required in their contract, while Showspan has accused the association of trying to undermine the 2004 show. Both sides presented their case before the committee in June.

    Operations Committee Chairman Lew Chamberlin said the next step was to have SMG, the firm that manages the Grand Center, look into the matter.

    “SMG and all their resources are most likely to shed some light on this,” he said.

    SMG General Manager Rich MacKeigan said he would talk with management at other SMG venues and at company headquarters in Philadelphia to learn if an issue like this has happened in other buildings and, if so, how each was handled.

    MacKeigan noted that this dispute was a first of its kind for the CAA since it took over the Grand Center and the Van Andel Arena more than two years ago. He plans to file a report with the committee by the September meeting.

    Board member Joseph Tomaselli suggested that whichever group was more likely to produce the better event, provide the best revenue stream and be able to repeat that performance should get the nod to produce the show.

    The dealers and Showspan are working together on the 2003 show, the final year of the current contract. But the dealers association has already signed with another producer for the 2004 show.  

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