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DeVos Hall debuts new look

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DeVos Hall debuts new look

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

By Jeffrey Kaczmarczyk

The Grand Rapids Press

The chrome handrails and heavy glass doors gleam, and the carpeting and paint smell new inside DeVos Performance Hall.

But among Jim Gray's favorite features in the renovated auditorium are its old, concrete sidewalls.

Once a dull gray, now painted white, the walls are lighted with colored lights that not only change the color but give the auditorium a new feeling of openness and lightness.

"There are places in the theater that have never been lit before," said Gray, who helped oversee the renovation. "Ninety percent of what you see there was always there, you just couldn't see it."

The 25-year-old auditorium this summer received a $5 million makeover funded by Grand Action Committee, the private committee that spearheaded the expansion of DeVos Place convention center surrounding the hall. DeVos Hall closed June 1 for a summer's worth of renovations, including new carpeting and paint and entirely remodeled restrooms. It opens tonight with a private reception and tour sponsored by Grand Action, and the Grand Rapids Symphony opens its new season Friday and Saturday.

"This is a 90-day wonder," said Gray, who reports to the Convention/Arena Authority. "It's amazing what you can do in 90 days."

About 300 to 350 people a day worked on the project managed by Erhardt-Hunt.

"I think people are going to be pleasantly surprised with the new look," said Jon Nunn, executive director of Grand Action Committee.

Cosmetic changes designed by Progressive AE now match the new convention center.

"It would have been noticeably absent if those renovations hadn't happened," said Rich MacKeigan, general manager for SMG, the management firm that oversees DeVos Place. "It really is a significant step forward."

The venue's 2,446 refurbished seats, once orange, now are closer to turquoise or aqua. The original metal frame of the seats remains, but the wooden arms and backs, plus the cushions and upholstery were replaced by Irwin Seating.

Early on, officials considered adding a central aisle but discarded the idea because it would cost 400 seats, a reduction that would prevent the hall from booking some touring shows.

Original art, such as the theatrical marquee in the Keeler Lobby, have not been touched.

The effort to make it all happen so quickly came as a result of having the funds, according to those involved with the project.

"That's a remarkable commitment by the private sector for a public space," said David Frey, Grand Action co-chairman and past board member of the Convention/Arena Authority.

The Richard and Helen DeVos Foundation contributed the lead gift with other major contributions coming from the Jay and Betty Van Andel Foundation, the Peter Wege Foundation, the Frey Foundation, Fred and Lena Meijer, Chuck and Stella Royce, and Stan and Margaret Cheff.

While renovation of DeVos Hall was funded by the $5 million raised privately, additional work in the Keeler Lobby was funded by the late Miner S. and Mary Ann Keeler and by the Grand Rapids Foundation.

Additional work surrounding the hall, including expansion of second-floor restrooms, new dressing rooms and green room, were part of the budget of the $220 million DeVos Place project.

Work will continue this month to replace the DeVos Hall roof. Work is not expected to interfere with hall use.

DeVos Hall was occupied the equivalent of 165 days in the most recent fiscal year ending June 30, earning a gross revenue of a little over $700,000.

Once the hall is fully open for the summer, officials estimate 175 days will be booked per year.

"It's not too easy to improve on what's already very busy," said Chris Machuta, director of finance for SMG.

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