GRAND RAPIDS — The naming rights for the new $219.5 million convention center could become a contested issue in court. A Kentwood woman has registered the name “DeVos Place” and has offered to release ownership of it for a cash settlement.
Kimberly Scott, listing an address on Old Elm Drive in Kentwood, recently filed DeVos Place as an assumed name with the Kent County Clerk’s office. An assumed name is also referred to as a “doing business as” certificate, costs $10, and the registration is good for five years. The DBA certificate isn’t, however, a license to do business. But it does protect the name from being used by others in Kent County.
Scott also owns the Internet domain name devosplace.com. The cost to register a domain name can vary, but one site offers to do so for $19 a year.
“We are talking with her about how to resolve this. We’d prefer to have that site, if we could get it,” said Steven Heacock, chairman of the Convention and Arena Authority, which owns the facility.
“When we went to use that site, once the convention center was named, we found out it was already taken. So we found out who had it and we’ve begun discussions with her about that issue,” he added.
SMG general manager Rich MacKeigan, who oversees the daily operations for the center, said the board has been in negotiations with Scott for about a month.
“It definitely would not be appropriate for me, as I do with any type of negotiation, to discuss anything until things are finalized,” said MacKeigan.
“It appears that there is very little progress being made,” he added. “With relation to the domain name, we have a number of other domain names that we are very, very happy with and very, very positive about in terms of the business that we are going to be able to do.”
MacKeigan said not owning devosplace.com wouldn’t hurt the convention center. But a question remains about whether the name can be affixed to the building when it opens in 2004, if Scott still has ownership of it.
An attorney told the Business Journal that Scott could sue to enjoin the board from using the name under that scenario. But he added that judges are sometimes more sympathetic to defendants when the name in question belongs to an individual, especially if the plaintiff isn’t a relative.
The Business Journal was unable to reach Scott for comment by press time.
In May, the CAA and Grand Action named the new $219.5 million convention center DeVos Place, after the Richard and Helen DeVos Foundation pledged $15 million to the $33 million private-sector fundraising drive for the building.
“My view is, we certainly are willing to pay a nominal amount to get the name. But we do have other alternatives,” said Heacock. “Clearly that is meant to be the name for the building and we’ll do what we need to do to get the name.”