DeVos Place Will Open Earlier

    GRAND RAPIDS — The grand opening of the new DeVos Place will take place in less than a year, five weeks earlier than planned.

    The Convention and Arena Authority agreed early Wednesday morning to speed up construction of three exhibit halls, loading-dock space, all public restrooms and the east entrance to the Grand Gallery so the new convention center could accommodate the Midwest Woodworking Expo.

    It may cost up to an additional $275,000 to get the building ready by Nov. 25, 2003, the target date for completion. The grand opening event will likely take place on Nov. 29, the first day of the woodworking trade show.

    Of that total, $175,000 goes to Erhardt-Hunt, the project’s general contractor, and another $100,000 has been set aside to cover overtime pay for the construction crews.

    “Cutting five weeks out of the schedule leaves us only 52 weeks and that is kind of risky for your contractor,” said Joe Erhardt of his new deadline.

    The biannual trade show, which has been held here since 1987, has agreed to pay $125,000 in advance rent and to make a $45,000 donation to the acceleration cost. The Convention and Visitors Bureau will donate $75,000 to the project from its marketing account, and area hotels will contribute $10,000 to the project.

    The CAA, which owns the building, will put $20,000 in the pot.

    The Midwest Woodworkers are suppliers to the industrial woodworking industry and not a hobby group. Exhibitors will come from 40 states and 10 countries, while attendees will come from a 300-mile radius. Nearly 8,000 are expected at the expo, which will run from Nov. 29 to Dec. 7, and they will use 2,500 hotel rooms and deposit about $1 million in the local economy.

    The early completion date also will allow the building to host two other conventions in December that wouldn’t have been possible without the earlier deadline. The woodworking group is expected to take part in the grand-opening ceremony.

    CVB President Steve Wilson said his sales crew has already locked in 82,000 hotel room nights for next year.

    “That is 117 percent of our goal,” said Wilson.

    The CAA also ratified three other agreements for DeVos Place on Wednesday.

    Voice Data Systems, a subsidiary of Feyen-Zylstra Inc., was awarded the contract to wire the building for telecommunications services at a cost of $739,566. Midwest Security Co., a division of Intec Co., won the right to install the security and closed circuit TV systems in DeVos Place with a low bid of $442,171. And the CAA agreed to a contract for electric power with Consumers Energy.

    CAA members also reappointed Clif Charles and Birgit Klohs to the board for four years. Both were initially appointed for two-year terms. The term of outgoing Kent County Board Chairman Steven Heacock expires at the end of the month and county officials are to name their representative next month.

    But Heacock told the Business Journal that he expects to continue representing the county on the CAA. Heacock served as board chairman for its first two years and he chairs the CAA Financial Committee.     

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