GR Regional Entertainment Center

    GRAND RAPIDS — An analysis of ticket sales conducted by SMG and TicketMaster shows that Grand Rapids has become a regional seller in the entertainment business.

    A ticket-sales breakout of 15 events held during the first four months of this year at Van Andel Arena and DeVos Performance Hall revealed:

    • For five of those shows, more than half of tickets were sold to customers outside of Grand Rapids.
    • For 10 of those shows, more than 40 percent of tickets were sold to customers outside of Grand Rapids.
    • For only five of those shows did ticket buyers in Grand Rapids make up at least two-thirds of the paid audience.

    The show that had the highest percentage of local customers was “The Maintenance Man” on March 25 at DeVos Hall. For that performance, 83 percent of those that bought tickets were from Grand Rapids.

    The event with the lowest percentage of local customers was the Kenny Chesney concert at the arena on March 13. For Chesney, only 38 percent of the paying customers were from Grand Rapids.

    SMG Director of Marketing Lynne Ike told the Business Journal that Grand Rapids has evolved into a regional draw for its events. Ticket buyers are coming from the metro Detroit area; from north of Big Rapids; from Lansing, Kalamazoo and Battle Creek; from all along the western Lake Michigan shoreline; and from neighboring states.

    Data like this is valuable to Ike because it helps her department and event promoters decide where they should sell a show.

    “We do this because when we’re trying to plan our advertising we need to know if we’re going to spend money in any of the outlying areas, and we want to spend it where we’re getting a draw from,” she said.

    The biggest out-of-town markets for shows here are along the Lakeshore and from the Kalamazoo-Battle Creek area. Both consistently bought 10 percent to 20 percent of tickets sold for events held from January through April. Lansing was a secondary out-of-town buyer with 6 percent to 12 percent of ticket sales for most of the 15 events.

    But most promoters seem to favor Kalamazoo and Battle Creek for their out-of-town ad buys over cities on the shore of Lake Michigan, and Ike said SMG will try to convince them to pay a bit more of their marketing attention to the shoreline.

    “The Lakeshore is an untapped resource. A lot of the promoters don’t feel that advertising to Muskegon, Grand Haven and Holland is the way to go,” she said.

    “There is quite a population there that is hungry for entertainment. They want to come into town and they don’t think much of driving into Grand Rapids to see a show.”

    The events that drew the biggest ticket response from the Lakeshore were the freestyle motocross, Judy Collins, Blue’s Clues Live, Disney on Ice, the Band of Grenadier Guards, the Def Leppard concert and Barney’s Colorful World — quite an eclectic array of shows.

    Ike said SMG and TicketMaster are trying to tinker with the ticket-selling system so it can better identify where buyers from the Lakeshore live. Right now, sales from that area are lumped into a group from as far south as St. Joseph to as far north as Ludington. More specifics of where tickets are being bought would help market shows at both buildings.

    Exactly when that type of analysis will be available is anyone’s guess, right now. Ike said digging in to it would be her summer project. With DeVos Performance Hall closing last Sunday until September because of work being done on DeVos Place, she has one less building to worry about for a few months.

    So maybe next fall Ike will have more detailed information on the whereabouts of ticket buyers. In the meantime, she will continue to work with local promoters on shows set for the arena this summer, as at least three concerts will play there this month alone.

    “We send out news releases to as much of the state as we possibly can so that we can get into different concert announcements,” said Ike. “Not everyone wants to drive to Detroit. We have a nice, safe area to come to, it’s a good, clean building and it’s more intimate than the Palace. So I think a lot of people enjoy coming here.”           

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