GRAND RAPIDS — Arena Bowl XV was about more than supremacy on the 50-yard indoor football field. The championship game of the Arena Football League, played last Sunday at Van Andel Arena, was also about ticket sales, room nights and national exposure for the league’s smallest market.
In other words, it was also about business. And not business as usual.
The title game sold out in 24 hours, quite likely a first for a sporting event in the city. In addition, the sellout was done by starting from scratch without the pre-sale of season tickets being part of the full-house count. The ticket rush began almost immediately after the Grand Rapids Rampage eliminated the Indiana Firebirds on Aug. 12.
“We stayed open late on Sunday night to accommodate all the callers. But finally we had to give our people a rest and send them home so they could open back up on Monday,” said Bob Struyk, president of Tickets PLUS, the franchise’s ticket seller.
“Yes, it’s probably some kind of record. I really don’t know what kind, but it was a pretty fast turnaround to sell everything out in 24 hours,” he added.
The playoff run also was the first time that the franchise had ever hosted a postseason game in its four-year history, yet alone three in a single August.
For the trio, the Rampage sold approximately 29,000 tickets at an average price of $17, for a gross sales figure of roughly $490,000. But, more important, the team collected that nice chunk of playoff change without fleecing its customers, as Rampage management didn’t raise ticket prices for the games.
“We’re pretty proud of that,” said Randy Cleves, director of media relations for the Rampage, a franchise owned by Dan and Pamella DeVos.
As for the ancillaries, the contingent that accompanied the championship affair resulted in nearly 700 booked room nights for the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel. The Nashville Kats, league officials, owners and coaches, and the ABC Sports crew stayed at the downtown hotel.
“It was sort of a windfall for us. All in all, that means a fair amount of business for us,” said Ron Brondyke, director of sales for the five-star hotel. “It’s great because of the visibility for the city of Grand Rapids.”
The advance team for ABC, which televised the title tilt, checked into the Amway Grand on Aug. 13 at 2 a.m., driving from Chicago after the Rampage doused the Firebirds. All last week, network media people milled throughout downtown looking for shots they could use during the live nationwide telecast. What they probably saw the most was the tiniest title town they’ve ever seen.
“Somebody told us this morning that they’re referring to us as Mayberry RFD,” said Struyk with a chuckle. “Oh, well, that’s OK.”