Meijer Gardens Bookings Growing

    GRAND RAPIDS — Judging by the increase in its facility rentals, Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park is on a roll.

    From October 2000 to September 2001, the Gardens’ rental revenue nearly tripled: to $1.4 million, up from $621,400 for the same period the year before.

    Last year, the Gardens was the site of 1,604 events.

    The 7,054-square-foot Grand Room is the largest of the Gardens’ 10 rental facilities and its easiest sell for weekend events, said Stacie Niedzwiecki, director of hospitality services.

    Add in the Atrium and add another 2,670 square feet. 

    “We book up right away for all the weekends because of the weddings. We do an enormous amount of wedding business here,” she said.

    “The Grand Room is always the one that gets filled up first on the weekends. But the other rooms fill up as we go and they’re holding their own next to the Grand Room as well.”

    Most of Friday and Saturday rentals are for weddings, and the other days of the week, it’s a mixture of social and business-related functions, Niedzwiecki said.

    The Grand Room, one of the largest rooms available for rent in Grand Rapids, features floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the gardens. 

    It opened for business in October 2000 and was part of a 65,000-square-foot expansion that more than doubled the size of the Gardens’ facility.

    The Gardens’ hospitality staff subsequently expanded from about 15 to 85 employees to handle the growth.

    The Grand Room can accommodate 850 people seated theater style for a convention or seminar, or 660 in a dinner-style arrangement. The room also can be divided to accommodate groups that are those sizes.

    The room has a pair of built-in bars and an audiovisual system with two 16-foot video screens that lower from the ceiling.

    It currently rents for $1,000 to $2,400, depending on the number of hours rented and the day of the week rented. Friday and Saturday evening rates are highest.

    Other rental facilities include the Victorian Garden Parlor, Grace Jarecki Seasonal Display Greenhouse, Lena Meijer Conservatory, Hauenstein & Pfeiffer Rooms, and the Hoffman Family Auditorium.

    Three lower-level conference rooms are available for small business meetings, seminars or parties of up to 90. The three rooms also can be combined to accommodate groups of up to 270.

    Collectively, the Gardens’ rental facilities enclose 122,145 square feet of space. In fact, the entire building can be rented for $3,000 to $3,500. 

    The facility includes a 120-seat restaurant known as A Taste of the Gardens Café, one of seven designated caterers for onsite food and beverage service at the Gardens. The facility also houses two gifts shops and a library.

    All facility rentals include access to the specialty gardens and sculpture park.

    Niedzwiecki said about half of the people attending events take advantage of those attractions.

    “The business people often don’t have time. They come and attend short programs; they’re here and they’re gone. If it’s more of a social function that’s related to business, then they may.”

    The Gardens opens for bookings every January for the following year, so bookings can be made as far as two years out.

    People calling for reservations in January, for instance, would have all of that year’s as well as all of the following year’s available booking dates to choose from.

    The Gardens’ facilities also are used for internal activities, such as membership events, lecture series and classes.

    Internal events represent about a third of the Gardens’ events, or about 40 per month, Niedzwiecki said.

    As those activities continue to expand, they take up space.  

    In January, for example, a large glass sculpture exhibit will be installed in the Grand Room and Atrium space and will effectively block rental of those spaces for three weeks.

    Similarly, when the Gardens’ education department opens up a new series of classes, the Grand Room or another room is used.

    “That impacts our rental business, which impacts number of events and number of revenue dollars,” Niedzwiecki explained. “People aren’t seeing the whole picture because there’s a mission-related reason.”

    While those internal offerings remove some options for external rental business, they live up to the Gardens’ mission of educating the community about plants, the environment and art, Niedzwiecki pointed out.

    “The Gardens is such a unique venue. It’s not like any other institution around Grand Rapids and that (mission) really needs to be part of the picture.”

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