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Van Andel Arena Expansion?


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6 hours ago, GR8scott said:

            AAA baseball would be a good next step but unlikely due to geography. They would also be nice to get an arena football team back and division one sports at Grandvalley. Before there’s even talk of pro sports the arena would have to be expanded or rebuilt, there are plenty of other similar size cities that have bigger and organize her arenas like Greensboro, Des Moines, Omaha, Little Rock, Birmingham, Not to mention college towns like Lincoln and Madison just to name a fewNot to mention college towns like Lincoln and Madison just to name a few

Grand Rapids still anchors the number 44 media market which is larger than all of these cities it's being compared to.  Radially within 80 miles there are close to 2.3 million people to pull from.  I agree that major league sports franchise wouldn't happen.  The area punches above it's weight in terms of market size.  I do think a major league sports team would get more interest and support from the urban clusters around us, in comparison to the minor league teams we currently have.   I think a triple A team would do just fine here. 

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Well the other issue is that the whitecaps work well with the tigers and of course the fans like that. It would almost compete with Toledo the AAA team that’s much more established, better stadium and closer. The Iowa cubs have a much better stadium and fan following than the whitecaps as well. The only thing I could see is a smaller market northeast town like Scranton moving here and it wouldn’t be the farm team of the tigers....and also probably require a new baseball stadium

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11 minutes ago, GR8scott said:

Well the other issue is that the whitecaps work well with the tigers and of course the fans like that. It would almost compete with Toledo the AAA team that’s much more established, better stadium and closer. The Iowa cubs have a much better stadium and fan following than the whitecaps as well. The only thing I could see is a smaller market northeast town like Scranton moving here and it wouldn’t be the farm team of the tigers....and also probably require a new baseball stadium

The Tigers farm system has been in shambles for quite some time. Any great player that they draft ends up being traded for someone to make an immediate impact on the Tigers roster. We're now seeing that this approach is not sustainable. Maybe the Tigers need to revamp their approach along with their farm system. I would think that they would be able to flip-flop Erie and GR. Even a Double A club would beat being the second lowest level of minor league baseball in a metro area of 1.1 million. They could then make some upgrades to the main portion of the stadium by adding a small second deck and new suites. The Mud Hens have a cult following, despite Toledo being a dumpster fire, so they would likely never ruin that relationship. But there is zero reason why Erie, PA should have a higher level minor league club than Grand Rapids. 

Edited by GRLaker
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24 minutes ago, GRLaker said:

The Tigers farm system has been in shambles for quite some time. Any great player that they draft ends up being traded for someone to make an immediate impact on the Tigers roster. We're now seeing that this approach is not sustainable. Maybe the Tigers need to revamp their approach along with their farm system. I would think that they would be able to flip-flop Erie and GR. Even a Double A club would beat being the second lowest level of minor league baseball in a metro area of 1.1 million. They could then make some upgrades to the main portion of the stadium by adding a small second deck and new suites. The Mud Hens have a cult following, despite Toledo being a dumpster fire, so they would likely never ruin that relationship. But there is zero reason why Erie, PA should have a higher level minor league club than Grand Rapids. 

 

9 hours ago, GR8scott said:

            AAA baseball would be a good next step but unlikely due to geography. They would also be nice to get an arena football team back and division one sports at Grandvalley. Before there’s even talk of pro sports the arena would have to be expanded or rebuilt, there are plenty of other similar size cities that have bigger and organize her arenas like Greensboro, Des Moines, Omaha, Little Rock, Birmingham, Not to mention college towns like Lincoln and Madison just to name a fewNot to mention college towns like Lincoln and Madison just to name a few

So did a little digging. The Tigers and Whitecaps last extended their development contract in 2015. This was a two-year extension through the 2020 season. Prior to that, they extended the contract in 2011 to go through the 2018 season. With only 2 seasons left on the contract, one has to assume there is at least dialogue about moving up. 

https://www.milb.com/milb/news/whitecaps-tigers-extend-affiliation-deal/c-106302748

The following AAA teams have deals that are expiring in the 2020 season: Buffalo Bisons (Blue Jays), Charlotte Knights (White Sox), Columbus Clippers (Indians), Durham Bulls (Rays), Gwinnett Braves (Pirates), Indianapolis Indians (Pirates), Lehigh Valley IronPigs (Phillies), Louisville Bats (Reds), Norfolk Tides (Orioles), Pawtucket Red Sox (Red Sox), Rochester Red Wings (Twins), Scranton/W-B RailRiders (Yankees), Syracuse Chiefs (Nationals), and Toledo Mud Hens (Tigers). 

I only see a few of these a viable for switching. Regardless of cult following, I think Toledo would be in play. Maybe Charlotte Knights. Other state associated affiliates have no chance of flipping. 

Also interesting, the midwest doesn't have a ton of exposure to the Pacific Coast League or the Eastern League. Given the limited travel resources for minor league teams, this may make it difficult for us to get an AA ball club. Furthest West team in the EL is the Akron Rubber Ducks (Indians). Furthest East Pacific Coast League team (AAA) is the Nashville Sounds (Athletics) or the Iowa Cubs (Cubs).

https://www.baseballamerica.com/stories/2018-minor-league-affiliation-chart/

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20 minutes ago, kwl said:

 

So did a little digging. The Tigers and Whitecaps last extended their development contract in 2015. This was a two-year extension through the 2020 season. Prior to that, they extended the contract in 2011 to go through the 2018 season. With only 2 seasons left on the contract, one has to assume there is at least dialogue about moving up. 

https://www.milb.com/milb/news/whitecaps-tigers-extend-affiliation-deal/c-106302748

The following AAA teams have deals that are expiring in the 2020 season: Buffalo Bisons (Blue Jays), Charlotte Knights (White Sox), Columbus Clippers (Indians), Durham Bulls (Rays), Gwinnett Braves (Pirates), Indianapolis Indians (Pirates), Lehigh Valley IronPigs (Phillies), Louisville Bats (Reds), Norfolk Tides (Orioles), Pawtucket Red Sox (Red Sox), Rochester Red Wings (Twins), Scranton/W-B RailRiders (Yankees), Syracuse Chiefs (Nationals), and Toledo Mud Hens (Tigers). 

I only see a few of these a viable for switching. Regardless of cult following, I think Toledo would be in play. Maybe Charlotte Knights. Other state associated affiliates have no chance of flipping. 

Also interesting, the midwest doesn't have a ton of exposure to the Pacific Coast League or the Eastern League. Given the limited travel resources for minor league teams, this may make it difficult for us to get an AA ball club. Furthest West team in the EL is the Akron Rubber Ducks (Indians). Furthest East Pacific Coast League team (AAA) is the Nashville Sounds (Athletics) or the Iowa Cubs (Cubs).

https://www.baseballamerica.com/stories/2018-minor-league-affiliation-chart/

In light of the travel costs and likely player salary increases, I guess the big question would be if moving up would result in an increase in area interest to offset the cost or even surpass it. We'd be getting higher quality players and higher quality play as a result. As it stands right now, watching the Whitecaps is like watching a college team in a large stadium. It's more of a socializing event to attend with the occasional glancing at the field and being shocked to see that both teams put up 3 runs since you last glanced over. At least with a AAA or AA club, we'd see some major league caliber guys more often. But I'm sure a study would be done to determine that kind of stuff to see if moving up could be justified by increased revenue. 

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5 hours ago, GRLaker said:

The Tigers farm system has been in shambles for quite some time. Any great player that they draft ends up being traded for someone to make an immediate impact on the Tigers roster. We're now seeing that this approach is not sustainable. Maybe the Tigers need to revamp their approach along with their farm system. I would think that they would be able to flip-flop Erie and GR. Even a Double A club would beat being the second lowest level of minor league baseball in a metro area of 1.1 million. They could then make some upgrades to the main portion of the stadium by adding a small second deck and new suites. The Mud Hens have a cult following, despite Toledo being a dumpster fire, so they would likely never ruin that relationship. But there is zero reason why Erie, PA should have a higher level minor league club than Grand Rapids. 

Just read up on the Mud Hens. They're actually a community owned, not-for-profit. Aka they'll never move. 

3 hours ago, GRLaker said:

In light of the travel costs and likely player salary increases, I guess the big question would be if moving up would result in an increase in area interest to offset the cost or even surpass it. We'd be getting higher quality players and higher quality play as a result. As it stands right now, watching the Whitecaps is like watching a college team in a large stadium. It's more of a socializing event to attend with the occasional glancing at the field and being shocked to see that both teams put up 3 runs since you last glanced over. At least with a AAA or AA club, we'd see some major league caliber guys more often. But I'm sure a study would be done to determine that kind of stuff to see if moving up could be justified by increased revenue. 

Major league teams cover player salaries, coaches, and expenses as part of their affiliate deal. The ownership group is responsible for facilities, overhead, etc. 

If I were to guess, I would wager that the Whitecaps are breakeven or net-loss. I bet that the ownership group makes most their money off the events that 5/3rd hosts. 

http://businessjournalism.org/2015/08/sports-and-money-the-economics-of-minor-league-baseball/

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On 7/25/2018 at 8:18 PM, cutlervillegr said:

A couple thoughts on Buffalo, as a Buffalo sports fan and former WNYer.  Although Buffalo MSA is only 1.2 million, the Buffalo sports market extends 45 minutes east to Rochester (1.1 million), 45 minutes west into Canada (1.1 million), plus Toronto 1.5 hours away.  In fact, 45% of the stadium attendance at a Bills game is from Rochester or Canada.  What does this mean?  Buffalo is actually a regional team, with a population base of about 3.5 million.  

The problems for GR getting a major (NFL, MLB, NHL, NBA) sports team are:

-No large regional population base

-Not enough corporate sponsors (this is actually Buffalo's biggest problem, even with 3.5 million people to fill the stadiums/arenas).

-GR and West Michigan are much more of college sports fans (UM vs. MSU).  (At least based on living in Western New York and Western Michigan).

-No sports history to support a team (think smaller Rust Belt teams like Green Bay, Buffalo, Cleveland).

 

A couple of thoughts: I go to 1-2 Griffins games a year.  Usually on Friday.  The arena is usually 2/3 full at best.  In order for GR to support expanding Van Andel, or even considering getting a major team, they need to fill Van Andel all the time.  Look at Winnipeg, when they got the Jets back a few years ago.

I think getting a AAA baseball team would be a good step for GR.  GR is too small to have "only" A baseball.

Does this mean I'm not the only Sabres fan in west Michigan?

 

Every time I go to a Sabres game at KeyBank Center, it's filled with people from Toronto and Hamilton. And when the Sabres are actually good, there are few fanbases more passionate in the whole league.

Edited by ironyisadeadscene
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There really isn’t a great option  or even an adequate one for the Grand Rapids area to have a higher class minor league  than  Single A ball. While the GR area could support at least a double AA team, the logistics don’t make sense.  Single A Advanced teams are in Florida, The Southeast and California. There aren’t any AA teams in the Midwest besides Akron and the next closest being the Tigers AA team in Erie,PA. Both of those teams play most of there games in northeastern cities like Hartford and Manchester, NH. A AAA team is feasible but I think this area and team management like having the affiliation with the Detroit Tigers. It helps attract WhiteCap attendance especially when top Tiger prospects play in West Michigan or a Tiger makes a rehab start in West Michigan. There’s almost zero chance the Toledo Mud Huns leave their downtown ballpark and come here. Plus West Michigan would have to fund a new downtown stadium to be an attractive option for another AAA team and it’s affiliate considering most if not all new AAA parks are built downtown ie Charlotte and Nashville. I honestly believe Single A works in West Michigan really well. They have great attendance, local rivalries with Lansing and South Bend and most importantly the Tigers affiliation. Just my two cents 

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5 hours ago, ironyisadeadscene said:

Does this mean I'm not the only Sabres fan in west Michigan?

 

Every time I go to a Sabres game at KeyBank Center, it's filled with people from Toronto and Hamilton. And when the Sabres are actually good, there are few fanbases more passionate in the whole league.

Haha, there are dozens of us!  There are a few more Buffalo sports fans that I know of, but of course, we are far outnumbered.  

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On 7/26/2018 at 9:19 AM, kwl said:

 

So did a little digging. The Tigers and Whitecaps last extended their development contract in 2015. This was a two-year extension through the 2020 season. Prior to that, they extended the contract in 2011 to go through the 2018 season. With only 2 seasons left on the contract, one has to assume there is at least dialogue about moving up. 

https://www.milb.com/milb/news/whitecaps-tigers-extend-affiliation-deal/c-106302748

 

"The Detroit Tigers and West Michigan Whitecaps have agreed to a two-year extension of their current player development contract.

The agreement, announced Wednesday, keeps Tigers prospects playing at Fifth Third Ballpark through the 2022 season."

Mlive: Tigers, Whitecaps agree to extension

So I guess we don't need to talk about this again for a couple more years.

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  • 8 months later...

Sorry, this has nothing to do with expansion. But I found this in an article about potential upgrades recommended for Van Andel, DeVos Hall and DeVos Place:

SMG also would like to repaint the structural beams that jut out from either side of the arena’s roof because they are showing signs of rust. To do so, the beams would have to be removed, painted and then reattached, a project estimated at $1 million, Machuta said.

Especially because it would have to be redone about every decade, SMG is considering less expensive maintenance options, such as removing the overhanging portion of the beams altogether, though Machuta said that may cause the building to appear unfinished.”

I cant believe they’d consider removing the overhang.  What a horrible idea  I really hope they decide that maintenance is better than lopping off part of the design of the building.

https://www.grbj.com/articles/93162-smg-eyes-upgrades-for-venues

Joe

 

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12 minutes ago, tSlater said:

It seems strange to me that they would need to be removed just to be repainted. Why can't they be repainted in place?

I would imagine it’s the large grates (they are looking pretty warn). Might be easier than trying to paint the top and bottom in place as they are quite high up. 

Joe

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1 hour ago, joeDowntown said:

I would imagine it’s the large grates (they are looking pretty warn). Might be easier than trying to paint the top and bottom in place as they are quite high up. 

Joe

I definitely hope they don't take them off and leave them off. Yuck. 

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All of this brings up a question I have often thought...

The arena is almost 25 years old and I wonder what the long-term vision is as the facility continues aging. SMG/ CAA has put a ton of money in to the building to keep it looking fresh and updated over the years, but at some point it is going to feel like an old building. There is an amazing entertainment district built up all around the Van, but you can't (when the time eventually comes) just plop a new or much larger arena in the same spot.

What do you think we'll see long-term?

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1 hour ago, wyoming_mi said:

All of this brings up a question I have often thought...

The arena is almost 25 years old and I wonder what the long-term vision is as the facility continues aging. SMG/ CAA has put a ton of money in to the building to keep it looking fresh and updated over the years, but at some point it is going to feel like an old building. There is an amazing entertainment district built up all around the Van, but you can't (when the time eventually comes) just plop a new or much larger arena in the same spot.

What do you think we'll see long-term?

I like the arena looks and the location yet. I doesn't feel or seem like a 25 yr old building to me and what would a new building bring? I would be happy with a remodel, completion of the bowl at this point. Mainly because I've lost hope to get a pro team here. I'd also be happy with my high hopes of GV going D-1 and having basketball and hockey downtown.

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2 hours ago, HavingAhoot said:

I like the arena looks and the location yet. I doesn't feel or seem like a 25 yr old building to me and what would a new building bring? I would be happy with a remodel, completion of the bowl at this point. Mainly because I've lost hope to get a pro team here. I'd also be happy with my high hopes of GV going D-1 and having basketball and hockey downtown.

It's a very 90s arena, and the lifespan can be extended of they pour money into it. It's not a major sports venue (like NHL or NBA) and it's much nicer than many venues in the AHL. It has a lot of potential to make the jump to a modern arena if they thought it was worth it. 

Many arenas from that era are adding hotels and facilities to their arenas. Buffalo added Harbor Center to Key Bank Center. TD Garden in Boston is adding a tower and atrium to it. Toronto did the same to Scotiabank Centre.

Again, these are major pro facilities, so I wouldn't expect this at the Van. But they could do something on a smaller scale if they wanted to modernize the arena.

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On 4/23/2019 at 10:49 AM, ironyisadeadscene said:

It's a very 90s arena, and the lifespan can be extended of they pour money into it. It's not a major sports venue (like NHL or NBA) and it's much nicer than many venues in the AHL. It has a lot of potential to make the jump to a modern arena if they thought it was worth it. 

Many arenas from that era are adding hotels and facilities to their arenas. Buffalo added Harbor Center to Key Bank Center. TD Garden in Boston is adding a tower and atrium to it. Toronto did the same to Scotiabank Centre.

Again, these are major pro facilities, so I wouldn't expect this at the Van. But they could do something on a smaller scale if they wanted to modernize the arena.

That could be a good way to justify completing the bowl. It was said it was no longer financially worth it to complete the bowl.. but what if it included a hotel on top, or in the back corner across from Studio Park? Income from that might help justify the cost of completing the bowl.

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On 4/23/2019 at 10:49 AM, ironyisadeadscene said:

It's a very 90s arena, and the lifespan can be extended of they pour money into it. It's not a major sports venue (like NHL or NBA) and it's much nicer than many venues in the AHL. It has a lot of potential to make the jump to a modern arena if they thought it was worth it. 

Many arenas from that era are adding hotels and facilities to their arenas. Buffalo added Harbor Center to Key Bank Center. TD Garden in Boston is adding a tower and atrium to it. Toronto did the same to Scotiabank Centre.

Again, these are major pro facilities, so I wouldn't expect this at the Van. But they could do something on a smaller scale if they wanted to modernize the arena.

My understanding is that there have been plans to place a hotel in the south parking lot across from Studio Park.  I havent heard anything about it in about a year when it was considered a 50/50 proposition by someone who would know-- so who knows.

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On 7/26/2018 at 9:57 AM, GRLaker said:

the Whitecaps is  <snip> more of a socializing event to attend with the occasional glancing at the field and being shocked to see that both teams put up 3 runs since you last glanced over. At least with a AAA or AA club, we'd see some major league caliber guys more often. But I'm sure a study would be done to determine that kind of stuff to see if moving up could be justified by increased revenue. 

Absolutely true.  There are very few people in all of the region that follow where the Whitecaps are in the standings, etc.  

As a relative newcomer to the area here's a few thoughts on the Whitecaps/Griffins dynamic:

1.) There's  two Grand Rapids.  One that prefers the suburbs and is more or less terrified of going downtown (omg the parking!  omg the homeless people!  omg! omg!) and then there's the other set that has no problem going downtown and figuring it out.  The Whitecaps make the suburanists happy.  The Griffins make the downtown set happy.  So  in that light, the current arrangement  makes sense.

2.) Apparently the suburbanists are not as big as some of us think they are as the Griffins attendance continues to be strong-- 5th place in the league this year.   Of course it's not an apples to apples comparison.  Would the Caps attendance be better if the quality of play was higher?  Probably, sure.  But clearly people are willing to come downtown to see a minor league sports team, let alone consistently selling it out for big-name  comedians/musicians/etc.

3.)  As many have stated, the town is too big for Single A-- but indeed the stadium is lacking in location not in capacity (it's capacity is higher than most Eastern League AA teams).  As a downtown-supporter I'd love to see a stadium built maybe where Charlie's Crab is or any other surface-lot desert in downtown GR so that the region's residents could make an evening of going to the ballpark in the summer like so many other cities have done successfully.  Instead it's in an out of the way location (much like the mistake that Syracuse made when re-building their's out of the way all for the sake of parking), and that will always hold the franchise back.   The first trick is to find property & funding for the stadium (a tall task), the second trick is to not scare the existing core suburbanists from coming and finding a way to placate them (parking packages, etc.).  The restaurants and nightlife will take care of itself and fill in.

4.)  There's less and less of a difference between AA and AAA these days.  Most franchises use them nearly interchangeably for their prospects and getting the Tigers AA team would be a much bigger draw for local Tiger fans than low-A.  In my view it would be the near-equivalent of landing the AAA team.   Targeting Erie makes plenty of sense, but the devil is in the details and I know nothing of the details of their affiliation with the Tigers. 

 

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