Organizers blaming lower GR NYE attendance on weather, not venue change

Posted at 8:54 PM, Jan 01, 2015
and last updated 2015-01-01 23:24:04-05

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- With the confetti cleaned up and the crowds cleared out, organizers say they're already preparing for New Year's Eve 2015, and Calder Plaza will remain the location of choice for the celebration.

New for 2014, the venue changed locations downtown moving from Monroe Street NW and Rosa Parks Circle to the city's Calder Plaza.

Organizers estimate between 12,000 to 15,000 people attended the downtown event Wednesday evening, well below the lofty goal of between 30,000 and 40,000 originally projected. Despite, the lower attendance, Marcus Bradman, marketing director with Cumulus Media, is still calling the night a success, especially considering the weather conditions.

“I don’t think the (change in) venue is what did it, I think what limited us was the cold weather," Bradman told FOX 17 by phone Thursday.

"It had been so nice leading up to it, and (Wednesday) was probably the worst day we’ve had in the month of December.”

Bradman added that, of the people who did attend Wednesday night, unlike in year's past, event security had to make a point to clear revelers out after midnight.

"We had to get security to start clearing people out because people were still dancing and having fun," he said.

"So I think the people who attended really enjoyed Calder (Plaza), because I think they felt it was a little more spread out. You weren’t on top of each other, and you could enjoy the event a little more.”

Officially dubbed the HOT New Year's Eve 2014 party and put on by HOT 105.3 FM, the event had been held in Rosa Parks Circle starting in 2008, with the main stage later moving to Monroe Street NW as crowds grew. This year marked the seventh year for the event in downtown Grand Rapids.

Following the announcement that the venue would be moving for 2014, several businesses located near Rosa Parks Circle expressed concern they'd lose out on big business and foot traffic.

At Cinco de Mayo Mexican Restaruant, 114 Monroe Center Street, staff told FOX 17 those worries were warranted. “(Wednesday) night we closed at around 9:30, we were done, because basically we were just slow," said Ana Cuellar, a waitress at the restaurant.

Cuellar said her boss brought in extra staff in anticipation of larger crowds and staying open late for New Year's Eve. The restaurant is just steps away from where the event used to be held downtown.

“We were surprised, especially our boss, because he expected to be really busy, and he even prepared extra margaritas and we weren’t really that busy," she said.

"We want it back here in Rosa Parks. That would be good for business.”

While Wednesday night's weather might be to blame for lower attendance, the adverse conditions were undoubtedly to blame for throwing the night's main attraction for a loop.

The high winds forced the iconic lighted ball to be grounded for most of the evening as officials worked to determine whether it'd be safe enough to raise it up. Eventually the decision was made to drop the ball from a lowered height.

Meanwhile, some businesses claimed the bad weather actually worked to their advantage Wednesday evening.

At Biggby Coffee, 146 Monroe Center Street NW, a manager said they had lines out of the door of people waiting to order coffee and hot chocolate. The coffee shop sits directly across the street from Rosa Parks Circle, but staff said they weren't worried the venue change would affect business.

“It passed my expectations," said manager Kristyn Heagberg. “We had a line going out the door of people waiting to order, so this place was definitely packed.”